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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Critics raise questions about Rockport power plant"

Maybe the headline should have said "Questions continue about proposed Rockport power plant." Here is a very long list of earlier ILB entries, many of the from the Evansville Courier & Press. Here is one of the earliest in the ILB, from March 6, 2009, by then-C&P reporter Bryan Corbin. By March 15, 2009, an editorial in the C&P urged caution.

Here is John Russell's lengthy story today in the Indianapolis Star, giving a history of the project and the concerns. A quote:

But now, after early successes, the project is running into criticism or uncertainty at nearly every turn. Even the governor, who says he still supports the project, is expressing doubts about whether the plant will get critical loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. Without the loan guarantees, bond issuers say they would not finance the plant, and the project would die.

In a news conference last week, Daniels was asked whether the Department of Energy would be likely to approve the loan guarantees in the wake of several loan rejections for auto companies, including Carbon Motors and Bright Automotive, to produce high-mileage cars. Both auto companies said they had worked intensely for years on due diligence with the agency and were stunned by the loan rejections.

So what might that mean for Rockport?

"I don't know in the case of Rockport," Daniels said. "That's for them to judge. But the recent experiences are cautionary."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, March 18, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Law - "Fines will toughen Indiana public-access laws, backers say: Bill awaits decision by Gov. Mitch Daniels"

That is the headline to this March 17th AP story by Tom Davies that begins:

A bill awaiting a decision by Gov. Mitch Daniels would allow judges to levy fines against government officials for blatantly violating Indiana's public access laws, the first time personal penalties would be imposed since the laws were adopted 35 years ago.

Supporters believe fines would rarely be issued but say the option would strengthen the state's open records and open meetings laws.

The measure, approved in the final hours of the legislative session, allows civil fines of up to $100 for a first offense and up to $500 for additional violations against either the government official who committed the violation or the government agency. No criminal charges are involved.

So what bill is this? The story does not identify the bill.

It turns out it is HEA 1003, into which the contents of HB 1093 were inserted in conference committee.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, March 18, 2012
Posted to Indiana Law

Law - "Is Facebook part of your estate? States weigh laws to govern social media accounts after death" - A closer look ...

This story by Michael Avok of the Associated Press has appeared in many papers throughout the county in the past few days. Here are a few quotes about the new state laws:

[L]awmakers and attorneys in at least two states are considering proposals that would require Facebook and other social networks to grant access to loved ones when a family member dies, essentially making the site contents part of a person’s digital estate. The issue is growing increasingly important as people record more thoughts and experiences online and more disputes break out over that material. * * *

Nebraska is reviewing legislation modeled after a law in Oklahoma, which last year became the first state to take action.

ILB: So what do these laws provide? The ILB found a number of stories, but it took a while to locate the text of the laws themselves.

The Oklahoma law. A blog called Digital Passing, "Estate Planning for Passwords and Digital Property," had an entry Dec. 1, 2010 by Jim Lamm, headed "Oklahoma Statute Gives Executor Power Over Decedent’s Online Accounts." The entry, which points to some shortcomings in the law, also includes the text:

§58-269. Executor or administrator - Powers.
The executor or administrator of an estate shall have the power, where otherwise authorized, to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate any accounts of a deceased person on any social networking website, any microblogging or short message service website or any e-mail service websites.
Added by Laws 2010, c. 181, § 1, eff. Nov. 1, 2010.
As for Nebraska, this Jan. 18, 2012 story by JoAnne Young in the Lincoln Nebraska Journal Star, is headed "Senators deal with what happens when Facebook users die." A brief quote:
[Sen. John Wightman] is sponsoring a bill (LB783) at the request of the Nebraska Bar Association that would put into law that a personal representative can take control of, continue or terminate any social networking site, blog, email or message service on the Internet belonging to a person who dies.

There's no official authority now to terminate Facebook, Twitter or other social media accounts, he said.

The ILB is unfamilar with procedure in the Nebraska unicameral system, but here is what looks look the latest action on LB783, from Feb. 13, 2012: "CLERK: Mr. President, Government Committee reports LB772 and LB823 to General File, and LB782 to General File with amendments. (Legislative Journal page 497.)"

The introduced bill would add this language to Neb. Rev. Stat. 30-2472:

(2) A personal representative shall have the power, unless the personal representative's authority has been restricted by will or by court order, to take control of, conduct, continue, or terminate any account of a deceased person on any social networking web site, microblogging or short message service web site, or email service web site.
So this Nebraska proposal parallels the Oklahoma statute, and is subject to the same issues Mr. Lamm set out in his blog entry.

Finally, the AP story concludes with:

Oregon could be the next state to take up the issue. The Oregon State Bar Association has formed a group to work on the matter and hopes to propose legislation next year.
Virtual asset instructions

Portland lawyer Victoria Blachly said the plan will mirror the Oklahoma law, but it will also include a “virtual asset instruction letter” that lists online information and passwords, along with instructions for when someone dies or becomes incapacitated.

“That’s the part that social media providers have been wrestling with,” she said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, March 18, 2012
Posted to General Law Related

Ind. Decisions - Still more on: Supreme Court issues public reprimand to Carl J. Brizzi

Updating this ILB entry from March 13th, today in this item in the Indianapolis Star weekly column, Behind Closed Doors, reporter Jon Murray expands on his March 13th story:

Prosecutors in Indiana will have to be even more careful when they comment publicly on pending cases under guidance provided by the Indiana Supreme Court last week.

They're still sorting out what to make of a disciplinary case that ended with the high court reprimanding former Marion County Prosecutor Carl Brizzi. He was taken to task for his comments in 2006 after the prosecutor's office filed murder charges against two men accused in the Hamilton Avenue slayings of seven people. The men were later convicted.

The Supreme Court's worry: that Brizzi's comments -- including saying in a news release, "I would not trade all the money and drugs in the world for the life of one person, let alone seven" -- risked robbing the defendants of a fair trial.

So what does Brizzi's successor in Marion County think?

"We've made every effort to be circumspect in what we say," Prosecutor Terry Curry told us after Monday's Brizzi ruling was issued. "If it's necessary that we be more so, in light of this decision, we will obviously do it."

Still, the office's attorneys will have to tread carefully. A law professor, Joel Schumm, recalled a statement by Curry a year ago, about a death-penalty case, that might have pushed the envelope had the Supreme Court's new rules been in effect then.

Curry issued a news release in February 2011 announcing his decision to seek the death penalty against Thomas X. Hardy in the killing of Indianapolis police officer David Moore.

He said: "We believe the evidence will clearly show that this senseless killing was intentional while Officer Moore was doing nothing more than performing his routine duties. As we should all realize from the emotional outpouring after Officer Moore's death, this is more than a crime against our police officer. It is a crime against our community."

"That sounds pretty close to out of bounds," said Schumm, a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

But Curry disagreed, saying his intent was to explain why the death penalty was warranted. "In terms of the Officer Moore case, (what I said) is the allegation of the complaint."

On Wednesday, Hardy pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for the promise of a life sentence.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, March 18, 2012
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions