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Appellate court rules in judge's favor

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Trial courts don’t have the authority to issue orders against other courts and judges mandating that they stop certain practices, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

In Toshiano Ishii, Matthew Stone, Greg Hardin, Lisa Hardin, et al. v. The Hon. William E. Young, Judge, No. 49A02-1103-PL-316, the appellate court affirmed a motion to dismiss that Special Judge Matthew Hanson from Morgan County granted in favor of Marion Superior Judge William Young.

Hanson had been appointed to hear the case involving six individuals who alleged they were on the receiving end of Young’s improper traffic court practices, which included threatening additional fines on them if they exercised their right to a trial in his court. Those litigants sued Young, but only sought relief for future cases and not their specific situations. They requested that Hanson prohibit Young from improperly fining people. They also asked the judge to find that Young cannot bar the general public from attending court sessions and defendants with health problems should be allowed to return to court if they left and be able to carry snacks, water and medication if needed. Hanson found he didn’t have jurisdiction to issue a mandate or injunction against Young because that authority belonged solely to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The appellate court rejected the arguments that the Indiana Constitution and state appellate and original action rules allow for trial judges to issue a writ of mandamus or prohibition against another trial court judge relating to matters that aren’t connected to the trial court’s jurisdiction. The appellate panel cited both Indiana Constitution Article 7, Section 4 and Indiana Appellate Rule 4(B)(3) that gives the justices exclusive jurisdiction.

Since the three-judge panel affirmed Hanson’s order on grounds relating to jurisdiction, the appellate judges didn’t address the parties’ arguments relating to standing and mootness. The traffic court litigants who sued Young in this case were not involved in the disciplinary action that was filed against Young last year, but it involved the same conduct. The Supreme Court in February suspended Young for 30 days without pay, and the trial judge has since returned to the bench.
 

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  2. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  3. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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