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COA permits Knightstown to abolish town court

November 18, 2013

A battle between a town council and a judge over the fate of the local town court was stopped with the Indiana Court of Appeals noting the Indiana Legislature tends not to enact statutes that produce “unjust or absurd results.”

Bart Whitesitt filed a complaint after Knightstown passed an ordinance abolishing the town court. Knightstown had established the town court in the 1970s to adjudicate traffic infractions and misdemeanors.

Whitesitt was appointed town court judge on Jan. 31, 2011. That same month, the Henry County Prosecutor’s Office announced it would no longer refer misdemeanor offenses to the town court.

This move caused a shortfall in revenue and led Knightstown to dissolve the town court.

Appealing the summary judgment, Whitesitt argued Knightstown violated Indiana Code 33-35-1-1. The judge asserted that under the statute, a town court can only be closed every fourth year after 2006.

Knightstown counted that since its town court was established prior to Jan. 1, 1986, it was exempt from the requirements of the statute.  

In Bart Whitesitt v. Town of Knightstown, 33A04-1302-MI-00072, the Court of Appeals agreed with Knightstown and affirmed the trial court’s summary judgment in favor of the town.

“The General Assembly’s intent to treat courts established prior to January 1, 1986, differently from those established after that date is clear under the plain language of subsection (d) when it is considered within the entire context of the statute,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote for the court. “To reach any other conclusion would render subsection (d) meaningless. We presume our General Assembly does not enact useless statutes or statutory provisions and intends to avoid unjust or absurd results.”
 

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