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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides three today

In Northern Indiana Public Service Co. v. United States Steel Corp. , a 12-page, 4-1 opinion, Chief Justice Shepard writes:

Northern Indiana Public Service Company and its customer U.S. Steel settled a rate and service dispute in 1999. In this case, U.S. Steel and asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission to interpret the order it issued in 1999 approving a settlement between the parties. We affirm the Commission. * * *

They submitted the Settlement and Contract to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission, which approved it by an order dated July 8, 1999 after notice and an evidentiary hearing. Six years later, when a price adjustment provision in the Contract became effective, the parties disagreed on its application. NIPSCO maintained the price adjustment applied both to the Energy Charge (a fixed number of hours of use each month given by the agreement) and the Demand Charge (for energy use beyond the number of hours given for the Energy Charge’s fixed number). U.S. Steel insisted it applied only to the Energy Charge.

On November 17, 2006, U.S. Steel filed a complaint seeking to enforce its interpretation of the Contract. U.S. Steel then filed its motion for summary judgment. After briefing and oral argument, the Commission granted U.S. Steel’s motion for summary judgment, an unusual procedure for the Commission, on May 9, 2007, pursuant to 170 Ind. Admin. Code 1-1.1-26(a) (2007). NIPSCO appealed to the Court of Appeals, which reversed. N. Ind. Pub. Serv. Co. v. U.S. Steel Corp., 881 N.E.2d 1065 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008). We granted transfer, 898 N.E.2d 1223 (Ind. 2008)(table). * * *

The Commission found that the language of the Contract unambiguously supported U.S. Steel’s interpretation that the Adjustment applied only to the Energy Charge, that the definitive Contract superseded any earlier expressions of intent, and that the Term Sheet did not make the Contract ambiguous or demonstrate a contrary intent. (App. at 13-17.) In reaching these conclusions, the Commission applied utility and contract law consistent with established principles. * * *

None of the Commission’s conclusions run afoul of reasonable application of the well-established principles of contract law.

We affirm the Commission’s order.

Dickson, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.
Sullivan, J., would have denied transfer, believing the analysis and conclusion of the Court of Appeals to be correct.

In James H. Helton, Jr. v. State of Indiana, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Boehm writes:
This is an appeal from the denial of post-conviction relief. The petitioner alleges that defense counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to move to suppress evidence prior to his guilty plea. The petitioner did not establish what other evidence of guilt was or was not available. He therefore failed to meet his burden of proof to establish that he was prejudiced by counsel’s alleged omission.
In Frank Dennis v. State of Indiana, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Boehm writes:
This is a belated direct appeal from sentences for multiple crimes related to two 1997 murders. Life without parole was imposed, so the appeal is directly to this Court. Because the trial court did not enter a sufficient sentencing statement to support the sentence of life without parole, we vacate that sentence and remand for entry of a sixty-five-year term to run consecutive-ly to the defendant‘s other sentences for an aggregate sentence of 190 years. We otherwise af-firm the sentences. * * *

The sentence of life without parole for the murder of Shirley Newsom is vacated, and the case is remanded with instructions to impose a term of sixty-five years on that count to run con-secutively to the sentences on the other counts. Dennis‘s sentences are otherwise affirmed.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 23, 2009 01:43 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions