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Indiana Panel to Review Court Decision on Police Entry

A special committee of Indiana legislators will consider whether lawmakers can do anything about a recent state Supreme Court Ruling that said Indiana residents don’t have the right to resist police officers who illegally enter homes.

Republican Senator Brent Steele will chair the committee, which will determine whether the General Assembly can overturn the ruling or reduce its effects. He says the committee will report to lawmakers this fall.

The 3-2 ruling brought Indiana law in line with most other states, but critics contend it violates the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which protects residents from illegal searches.

Additional information from the Associated Press

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Indiana Equality Considering Options to Fight Same-Sex Marriage Ban

An Indiana advocacy group is planning its next step in the fight against a ban on same-sex marriage.

The Indiana General Assembly this week approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and civil unions. It must pass the legislature again in two years and then be approved in a public vote before becoming official.

Indiana Equality President Rick Sutton says his organization is considering various strategies to stop the amendment. He says several people have called for a campaign against lawmakers who supported the measure so they won’t be in office when it comes up again in the 2013 session.

“I don’t know that that’s the wise thing to do or not,” he says. “We have to survey our members and see what they want to do and plot our strategy politically. But it could include individual action against individual members and it must include a public education campaign. We have to do that.”

The amendment passed the Indiana Senate with a 40-10 vote and the House with a 70-26 vote.

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Balanced Budget Amendment Resolution Unlikely to Lead to Federal Action

The Kentucky Senate passed a resolution Tuesday calling for a constitutional convention on a balanced federal budget amendment. The vote was strictly along party lines, with one exception.

If Congress refuses to act on a constitutional amendment favored by the states, the states can force a constitutional convention. It’s never happened before, but U.S. Senator Rand Paul says it’s time, because Congress refuses to approve a balanced budget amendment.

“If we do nothing with spending, within a decade entitlements and interest occupy the whole budget. Think about that. The whole budget! No money for defense. No money for roads. No money for education. No money for anything if we don’t reform the system,” he says.

After listening to Senator Paul’s comments on the Senate floor, 22 Republicans joined the call for a constitutional convention. But Republican Senator Julie Denton joined the chamber’s 15 Democrats in opposing the resolution.

“I do have some concerns, as to what this could mutate into,” she said. “Congress now has the ability to limit its spending and it has chosen not to and I do have concerns about where this would go.  It’s going to pass anyway, but I doubt that it’ll pass in the House.  So I don’t know that it much matters, but I vote no.”

Two-thirds of the states pass similar resolutions to force congress to act. To date, at least 22 states have done so, but each state’s resolution is worded differently.

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House Approves “Hunting Rights” Amendment

The Kentucky House closed out week three of the 2011 General Assembly by approving hunting and fishing rights legislation.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo relinquished his gavel so he could speak from the floor on the hunting rights bill. Stumbo says the constitutional amendment creates the right to hunt, fish and harvest non-threatened species using traditional methods.

“The real meat of this amendment to me is that it guarantees that the wildlife herds and our fishery population will be controlled by wildlife management,” he says.

The amendment, which ultimately will require approval by voters, passed 91-4. The House also approved legislation establishing a statewide system of teacher evaluation. Both measures now move to the Senate.

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U of L Student Seeking Additional Damages

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A nursing student who was expelled from the University of Louisville over her blog posts will not be reinstated this semester.

Nina Yoder’s attorneys filed for an injunction in March seeking reinstatement in time for Yoder to graduate in August. The hearing was set for Friday, but U of L requested that it be cancelled, saying that Yoder had missed too many classes to graduate on time.

Yoder’s attorney Garry Adams says her legal team is now seeking reinstatement in the fall and increased damages.

“It will include wages she would’ve earned during the period after she graduated as well as embarrassment humiliation and mental anguish from getting expelled from school,” he says.

Adams says he has not yet put a dollar figure on the damages. U of L says it cannot publicly discuss student cases because of confidentiality rules.

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Hearing Friday For Expelled U Of L Nursing Student UPDATE – Hearing Called Off

UPDATE: The hearing has been canceled at U of L’s request. The school’s argument is that Yoder has missed too many classes to complete her education on time. The lawsuit for Yoder’s reinstatement continues. Friday, a federal judge will hold a hearing in the case of Nina Yoder, a University of Louisville nursing student who was expelled over posts on her MySpace page. Yoder is suing the university, claiming the action violated her First Amendment rights

Between January 2008 and February 2009, University of Louisville Nursing Student Nina Yoder wrote dozens of posts on her MySpace blog.

“Let’s say I was being unorthodox and expressing my opinions,” she says.

…Opinions on topics like abortion, gun ownership and patients she’d treated as part of her training. It was the last topic that led to Yoder’s expulsion.

“They put in front of me printouts of my blogs and said due to the nature of my blogs I’m being dismissed from school,” says Yoder.

U of L says it can’t publicly discuss student expulsion cases, but the school sent Yoder a letter saying her posts about unnamed patients were the reason for her dismissal because they violated the department’s honor code.

“We don’t think that there’s anything in the school’s honor code that would constitute a waiver of her first amendment rights,” says Yoder’s attorney Daniel Canon. “Certainly not. Nor her right to due process. Nor do I think she could waive that or be compelled to wave that.”

Canon says public institutions can’t restrict speech. But Yoder did sign an honor code promising to adhere to, quote, the highest standards of honesty, integrity, accountability, confidentiality, and professionalism.

Canon says that’s too vague, and regardless of the code any attempts to limit student speech are unconstitutional.

“Students blog about being in school,” he says. “Professionals blog about being professionals. Lawyers blog about being lawyers. Doctors blog about being doctors. This is something that happens, it’s going to continue to happen. Students blog about being students.”

“We are each entitled to our opinions. It’s how we express this opinion and where we express it and who we might be hurting by it that needs to be taken into account,” says Cleveland State University School of Nursing Director Dr. Vida Lock.

“It’s one thing to discuss patients among nursing students, but why she would be posting something like this on a public forum, I think, is unprofessional,” she says.

Lock says nursing students are on their way to becoming nurses, and are therefore taught and expected to follow the standards of professional nurses.

While she hasn’t had any cases of students blogging about patients, Lock says it’s possible for the posts to violate professional codes of ethics for nurses. But she couldn’t say if that would warrant immediate expulsion.

“If a student made derogatory comments about a patient – that a patient was student stupid or ugly or something like that, I would certainly have a talking to with that student,” she says.

Adam Kissel with the Foundation of Individual Rights in Education says it’s unfair to hold students who might, as other U of L nursing students have done, post unflattering or embarrassing photos of themselves on a blog, to strict professional standards for speech or behavior, because they aren’t yet professionals.

“Same thing with teaching or social work,” says Kissel. “If you’re an up and coming social worker or an up and coming teacher, you’re going to make some mistakes. And the ethics code might be there, but until you actually become a full practicing social worker, there’s got to be some leeway for you to make those mistakes and recover from them.”

Kissel says if student speech is going to be limited to meet professional standards, there should be a hearing process for those who violate the code.

“If all they have in their nursing standard of ethics is just a four paragraph statement saying you have preserve ethical standards and nothing else, then that’s way too vague for something you can use against someone for their otherwise protected speech,” he says.

Yoder did petition her case, but was not allowed on campus for a hearing. The petition was denied. Daniel Canon, her attorney, says school officials should have talked to Yoder about her alleged violation before expelling her. He says because the school did not give Yoder a chance to be heard, that equates to a denial of Yoder’s constitutional right to due process, in addition to an abrogation of free speech.

Canon and Adam Kissel say they don’t know of any similar lawsuits involving university students’ speech specifically on blogs. But in similar cases, judges have tended to rule in favor of school disciplinary actions, unless the student could prove due process was denied.