Circuit Court rules against deputy town marshal

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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A Fort Wayne couple will get their day in court after the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals determined the Orland deputy town marshal violated the couple's constitutional rights during an altercation at a towing lot three years ago.

In Ryan L. Belcher and Daraina Gleason v. Vaughn Norton and Town of Orland, the court ruled 2-1 Wednesday that the case shouldn't have been dismissed by U.S. District Judge Theresa Springmann in Fort Wayne. The district judge had ruled that Norton, the town's deputy marshal at the time, did not unreasonably hold the couple against their will; however, the Circuit Court disagreed.

Belcher and Gleason were traveling on the Indiana Toll Road in February 2004 when the transmission broke in their minivan. When a state trooper stopped to help, he ended up arresting Belcher for driving without a license and had the van towed to Bill's Professional Towing in Orland. Belcher and Gleason went to the yard a few days later to remove personal items from the van, including medicine and court papers, but when they removed more the lot owner insisted they couldn't leave without paying impoundment fees or signing ownership of the van over to the yard. Police were called and Norton arrived; he also wouldn't let the two leave until they abided by one of the two options. Eventually, they signed ownership over to the tow yard.

The couple sued in 2005, but Judge Springmann granted summary judgment to the town and Norton. This 7th Circuit ruling agreed that the town could not be held liable, but the court reversed on grounds that Norton acted inappropriately and could be sued for unreasonable search and seizure because his actions "shock the conscience."

"Because we conclude that Deputy Marshal Norton is entitled to the broad statutory immunity afforded by ITCA, we also must conclude that the statute does not provide an adequate state law remedy to the plaintiffs," the court wrote. "The plaintiffs may recover their costs from Deputy Marshal Norton."

Circuit Judge Daniel A. Manion disagreed in his dissent, noting that: "While the record could, and very well may, indicate that Norton acted improperly, nothing in the record evinces that his behavior was abhorrent," he wrote. "The whole process was unfortunately clumsy and mishandled, but by no means shocking to the conscience."

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  1. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well