A suspended Gary attorney who was awarded a quiet title to an abandoned, foreclosed property after he entered a house without authorization and began to maintain it was stripped of the title Tuesday by the Indiana Court of Appeals.
The appellate panel ruled that Robert Holland was not entitled to the trial court’s grant of summary judgment on his quiet title action. The COA reversed and remanded to Lake Superior Judge Calvin D. Hawkins with orders that summary judgment instead be entered on behalf of the foreclosing lender. The case is Countrywide Home Loans, Inc. v. Robert Holland, 45A04-1202-PL-53.
“This is at least the third installment in a series of appellate cases stemming from Robert Holland’s attempts to appropriate vacant residential properties by entering them without invitation and allegedly making improvements,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote for the court.
Holland has entered vacant residences he considers nuisances, made or attempted repairs, and filed actions for quiet title and to foreclose on purported common-law liens. In the instant case, he argued that Countrywide failed to take possession or move the property to a sheriff’s sale after the homeowner vacated, leaving behind a derelict haven for criminals. Holland won summary judgment on his petition for quiet title and damages of $1 against Countrywide.
Both those trial court rulings were error, the COA held. “Holland has alleged facts that would, at most, support a conclusion that the property created a public nuisance,” Friedlander wrote. “…Holland has not, however, made any allegation that he suffered any special or peculiar injury apart from the injury suffered by the general public. Accordingly, he has not established a private right to relief premised on public nuisance.”
The court reminded Holland of a 2012 COA opinion regarding an earlier instance in which he sought to gain title to an abandoned property, Holland v. Steele, 961 N.E.2d at 525. The panel in that case wrote, “The crux of Holland’s contentions is that he, as a private individual, should have an unfettered citizen’s right to act to abate a nuisance that contributes to urban blight. However, it is not within our purview to opine on policy questions surrounding a legislative or governmental response to urban problems.”
In the present case, the court ordered summary judgment entered in Countrywide’s favor, even while noting that no such motion had been made. “Because Holland has not asserted any plausible claim to legal title of the property, he cannot prevail on his action to quiet title. We therefore remand with instructions to vacate summary judgment in Holland’s favor and enter summary judgment against him on his quiet title claim.”
The panel in a footnote wrote that “Holland’s arguments are confused and disorganized, and we have expended a great deal of time and effort in attempting to understand them.”