SPECIAL REPORT: OOIDA v. Minnesota State Patrol
Parties turn to judge after impasse in mediation to develop new fatigue program

By Sandi Soendker, managing editor | 7/15/2011

St. Paul, MN, July 15, 2011 – OOIDA was back in district court this morning in St. Paul, once again facing off with the state’s attorneys for the Minnesota State Patrol.

U.S. District Judge Donovan W. Frank ruled in January that the Minnesota State Patrol’s use of CVSA Level III inspections to determine fatigue violated truckers’ Fourth Amendment rights. OOIDA and plaintiff member Stephen K. House were entitled to declaratory and injunctive relief. That means the state patrol must change their practices in order to not repeat their violations of the Constitution.

At the time of his ruling, the judge did not order how the program must be changed to avoid future violations. Instead, he ordered the state patrol and OOIDA into mediation-settlement conferences.

In a memo included with the court’s decision, Judge Frank wrote that “the parties … should address issues of the procedure itself, and hopefully establish a procedure that can serve as an example for the rest of the country. Consistency and uniformity will serve the plaintiffs’ and defendants’ interest and the interest of public safety.”

The parties did not reach an agreement in the mediation and headed back to court today.

OOIDA’s attorneys told the judge today that despite some changes in the patrol’s new “impairment” training program, which was rushed into place before the judge even issued his initial ruling, the Minnesota State Patrol hasn’t really created a program that ensures truckers’ rights are not violated.

At the hearing, OOIDA suggested to the judge that in the case of identifying fatigue at the roadside, officers needed to be trained in a consistent way with criteria based on a scientifically accepted set of standards. Attorneys for the state patrol argued that their new training plan was sufficient. OOIDA attorneys argued that those changes are not solid enough to address the problems identified by the court’s January ruling.

The state attorneys, Marsha Devine and Thomas Vasaly, argued that the new “impairment” training had addressed the court’s concerns and there was no need for an injunction.

Paul Cullen Sr., who argued the case for OOIDA, told the court that a clear order is needed dealing with the standards, so that what officers did in the past would not be repeated.

“Isn’t this why we are here?” he asked. “The person making the fatigue assessment must have a set of standards … a set of standards commonly recognized and accepted by the scientific community.”

Both sides have submitted their requests, and Judge Frank will now take those versions under advisement. He told both parties today that a decision could be 30 to 40 days out.

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