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State Supreme Court Lets Fines For Democrats’ Walkout Stand

In a 3-2 decision, the state Supreme Court decided the fines imposed on Democrats for walking out of the statehouse are a legislative, not a judicial matter.

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Photo: Dan Goldblatt/WFIU-WTIU News

Half of the House of Representatives chambers were empty in 2011 when Democrats walked out to prevent the passage of certain pieces of legislation.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday it should not get involved in a lawsuit challenging the collection of fines handed down to House Democrats during their walkouts in the 2011 and 2012 sessions.

In a 3-2 decision, Chief Justice Brent Dickson wrote for the majority, ruling that the fines imposed by House Republicans were internal matters of the legislature and not subject to judicial review. The Court ordered the fines will therefore stand.

Justice Robert Rucker, in his dissent, said the legislature’s discretion to punish its members does not include the discretion to withhold their pay.

In statements, Speaker of the House Brian Bosma and Attorney General Greg Zoeller praised the ruling. Bosma calls the decision a victory for the Indiana Constitution and says, with the matter closed, he looks forward to working in a bipartisan manner.

Attorney Mark GiaQuinta, the brother of Fort Wayne Democratic Representative Phil GiaQuinta, represented House Democrats in their suit. He says the three to two decision emphasizes the issue’s complexity and worries about the possible precedent.

“I am concerned that either party would view this as having unfettered discretion to take the minority’s property,” he says.

GiaQuinta says he also plans to ask the Supreme Court to address the issue of House Democrats’ pensions, which were reduced as a result of the fines.  The Democrats raised the pension issue before the Court, but its ruling did not mention them.

Brandon Smith

Brandon Smith has previously worked as a reporter and anchor for KBIA Radio in Columbia, MO, and at WSPY Radio in Plano, IL as a show host, reporter, producer and anchor. Brandon graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor of Journalism in 2010, with minors in political science and history. He was born and raised in Chicago.

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