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Ind. High Sch. Ath. Ass'n v. Carlberg by Carlberg - 694 N.E.2d 222 (Ind. 1997)


A finding of state action is critical to the court's analysis under the Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses: Embedded in the Fourteenth Amendment jurisprudence is a dichotomy between state action, which is subject to scrutiny under the Amendment's Due Process Clause, and private conduct against which the Amendment affords no shield, no matter how unfair that conduct may be. As a general matter the protections of the Fourteenth Amendment do not extend to private conduct abridging individual rights.


Plaintiff Jason Carlberg was a freshman high school student and swam on the varsity swim team at a preparatory school. Carlberg later transferred to defendant Carmel High School (“Carmel”), which prompted enforcement of the “Transfer Rule” of defendant Indiana High School Athletic Association, Inc. (“IHSAA”), which provided that a student who transferred for nonathletic reasons without a change of permanent residence by the student's parents or guardians had only limited athletic eligibility for 365 days following enrollment. Carlberg exhausted the administrative remedies available to him. After the IHSAA denied his appeals, Carlberg, by his parents, plaintiffs James E. Carlberg and Donna S. Carlberg, filed a lawsuit against the IHSAA and Carmel in Indiana state court, alleging that application of the Transfer Rule was arbitrary and capricious and violated his constitutional rights. The trial court agreed with Carlberg and enjoined the IHSAA and Carmel from enforcing the Transfer Rule. The IHSAA appealed, and the court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment, finding that the Transfer Rule was overbroad in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment Constitution when used to deny varsity eligibility to a student who transferred for nonathletic reasons. The state supreme court granted the IHSAA’s petition for transfer.


Did the Transfer Rule violate the Equal Protection Clause?




The Supreme Court of Indiana vacated the opinion of the court of appeals and reversed the decision of the trial court. The court found that the Transfer Rule was not arbitrary or unreasonable. The court noted that the Rule was designed to preserve the integrity of inter-school athletics and to prevent or minimize school "jumping" for athletic reasons. The court found this to be a legitimate interest and concluded that the Rule was rationally related to the attainment of the goal. The court further found that the Rule as applied to Carlberg did not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Finally, the court noted that Carlberg had no constitutional right to participate in interscholastic athletics.

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