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Appellate court finds lawsuit brought in bad faith

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today for a fifth time on a contentious family dispute over the estate of deceased parents, affirming a small claims court judgment in favor of two of the siblings for damages and fees against their brother and his wife.

Obed Kalwitz Jr., his wife Rolene, and Obed Jr.’s siblings Eugene Kalwitz and Sharon Grieger have been involved in litigation since the death of their mother in 1995. They were in dispute over 331 acres of land that Obed Jr. had gotten his parents to transfer to him for only $40 and other issues. In the instant case, Obed Jr. and Rolene sued the siblings claiming they stole property from that 331 acres, which now belongs to Eugene and Sharon, who served as personal representatives of their parents’ estates. Obed Sr. died in 1989.

After years of litigation, the parties mediated their pending matters in October 2006. As part of the settlement agreement, Obed Jr. had 30 days to remove certain personal property from the estates. He filed an affidavit saying he removed all the property he wanted and forfeited the right to remove any other property on the 331 acres. Eugene and Sharon later discovered he had booby trapped the land.

More than a year after the judge discharged Eugene and Sharon as personal representatives and closed the estate, Obed Jr. and his wife filed the small claims action alleging his siblings stole items from the land that belonged to him. Eugene and Sharon counterclaimed for compensatory damages for abuse of process, punitive damages, and attorney’s fees. The judge ruled in favor of the siblings, awarding them a total of $5,400.

In Obed Kalwitz, Jr., et al. v. Eugene Kalwitz, et al., No. 46A03-0912-CV-574, Obed Jr. and Rolene appealed the judgment, claiming the court erred by denying their request for a change of judge, determining that their claim was barred by res judicata, and by awarding damages and attorney’s fees to Eugene and Sharon.

The appellate judges found their change of judge request to be untimely. They filed their claim in February 2009, but didn’t file their request for a special judge until August. They also failed to personally verify, make allegations of when or how the cause was first discovered, or why they couldn’t have discovered the cause earlier as required by Indiana Trial Rule 76(C)(6).

Their claims are also barred by res judicata because their claim that the record doesn’t support a finding that a former judgment was rendered by a court of competent jurisdiction failed, wrote Judge Nancy Vaidik. Their argument that there’s no indication in the record that their claim was or could have been determined in the estate proceedings also failed.

Obed Jr. and Rolene also challenged five of the small claims court’s findings as being unsupported by the evidence, but the appellate court found their challenges were supported by the record. The judges also upheld the compensatory and punitive damages award, finding the couple acted with “malice and oppressiveness” and the award was imposed to deter further litigation.

The court also awarded appellate attorney’s fees and costs to Eugene and Sharon, concluding that Obed Jr. and Rolene’s appeal, “and indeed the entire lawsuit, was brought in bad faith and for purposes of harassment,” wrote Judge Vaidik. The matter was remanded for a determination of the amount of fees and costs.  
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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