ILNews

COA rules on fireworks wholesalers' challenge

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2007
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The Court of Appeals ruling today that firework wholesalers have an administrative process to determine whether Indiana Code section 22-11-14-5 requires fireworks wholesalers to obtain certificates of compliance for each location reinforces an earlier Supreme Court decision on the matter.

In Roger Johnson, as Indiana State Fire Marshal v. Patriotic Fireworks, Inc. et al., the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's denial of the fire marshal's motion to dismiss the consolidated complaints of Patriotic Fireworks and other fireworks wholesalers and remanded with instructions. The fireworks wholesalers challenged the fire marshal's requirement that fireworks wholesalers with multiple locations must obtain separate certificates of compliance for each location they operate.

At issue is whether the trial court erred in failing to dismiss Patriotic's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals, relying on Johnson v. Celebration Fireworks, Inc., 829 N.E.2d 979, 984 (Ind. 2005), found the trial court did not have subject matter jurisdiction.

In 1997, Patriotic filed a complaint in Marion Superior Court challenging the fire marshal's interpretation of Indiana Code 22-11-14-5 without first pursuing administrative review. Nine similar cases were consolidated with Patriotic's case.

In November 2005, the state filed a motion to dismiss the consolidated cases, saying the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because Patriotic failed to exhaust all administrative remedies before filing the complaint. Patriotic argued the trial court should dismiss the state's argument because no administrative review existed. In April 2006, the trial court denied the state's motion for reconsideration and granted its motion to certify an interlocutory order for immediate appeal.

Citing Johnson, the Court of Appeals disagreed with Patriotic's claims that no administrative remedy existed. In Johnson, Celebration Fireworks also did not first seek administrative review through the Fire Prevention and Building Safety Commission when challenging the same code. The Supreme Court found the issue whether wholesalers with multiple locations were required to obtain separate certificates for compliance can be properly resolved through the administrative process. In Johnson, the Supreme Court reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded it with instructions to dismiss Celebration's complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

Because Patriotic did not first pursue administrative review before being granted access to the trial court for judicial review, the Court of Appeals ruled the trial court lacked the subject matter jurisdiction to hear the claim. The Court of Appeals reversed the trial court's judgment and remanded with instructions that Patriotic's complaint be dismissed.
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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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