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COA affirms trial court dismissal of judicial review but differs on reasoning

June 24, 2013

An Allen Superior judge’s determination that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear a zoning issue, thus requiring dismissal, was erroneous, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled. But the judges affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the case because of a lack of supporting materials and a late request for a filing deadline extension.

Michael Howard sought judicial review of the Allen County Board of Zoning Appeals decision to grant a use variance allowing property owned by Alvin Schmucker to be used for the operation of a tire business. The men’s properties were near each other.

Howard asked the zoning board to produce a certified record of all materials relevant to its decision, and he had until Sept. 17, 2012, to file the record or seek an extension of the filing deadline. He did neither as of the deadline date, so Schmucker asked for Howard’s request for judicial review to be dismissed. Howard later filed an amended petition asking for the extension. In December, Judge Stanley Levine dismissed Howard’s petition with prejudice, holding the trial court lacked jurisdiction based on his failure to timely file the board record or timely request an extension of the filing deadline.

“Because the timing of filing the board record does not implicate matters of jurisdiction, we conclude that the trial court’s determination was clearly erroneous. But, because we interpret Indiana Code section 36-7-4-1613 to require dismissal where no materials supporting judicial review of the petitioner’s claim are timely filed and an extension of the filing deadline is not timely requested, we affirm the trial court’s judgment,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote in Michael Howard v. Allen County Board of Zoning, Appeals and Alvin Schmucker, 02A04-1301-PL-27.

The judges rejected Howard’s suggestion that under the COA’s April decision in  Lebamoff Enterprises Inc. v. Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission, the trial court’s discretion with regard to untimely filings allows the court to accept a belated record even where an official extension hasn’t been granted. They also rejected his claim under Trial Rule 15 that the relation back doctrine forgives the tardiness of Howard’s second belated extension request. Plus, after a filing deadline has passed, a party is not allowed to amend a petition to cure procedural defects.

 

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