COA: trial courts can limit administrative review

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State law allows a trial court to decline to hold a jury trial and limit its review of a local municipality’s administrative decision, according to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

A decision Friday in Utility Center, Inc., d/b/a Aqua Indiana, Inc. v. City of Fort Wayne, Indiana, No. 90A04-1101-PL-15, affirms the ruling by a special judge serving in Wells Circuit Court. Specifically, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s judgment relating to a public utility’s property condemnation that was before the Fort Wayne Board of Public Works. The city board determined the amount due by Aqua Indiana, and the company appealed that administrative decision in court. The trial court determined it would review the board’s decision under the abuse of discretion standard and the company wasn’t entitled to a jury trial.

The court of appeals looked at statute and state and federal caselaw to determine judicial review is limited to the facts in the agency record. The judges also concluded when a municipality actively seeks to avoid the appearance of impropriety when there is no evidence of impropriety, due process rights are not violated if a municipality’s employees serve as advocates and different employees of the same municipality serve as decision-makers in administrative proceedings.

“Neither Indiana Code chapter 32-24-2, nor the due process clauses under the United States Constitution or the Indiana Constitution, require a trial court reviewing an administrative determination of just compensation to conduct an evidentiary hearing or jury trial,” Chief Judge Margret Robb wrote.



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