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COA: Commissioners couldn't dissolve district

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The Brown County Commissioners had no authority to enact an ordinance to attempt to dissolve a recently created fire district, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded today.

In Susanne C. Gaudin, et al. v. J.W. Austin, president, et al., No. 07A04-0909-CV-534, Susanne Gaudin and other plaintiffs sought declaratory and injunctive relief upon learning the Brown County Commissioners enacted an ordinance in January 2009 purporting to dissolve a fire district. That district was created by a September 2007 ordinance. The plaintiffs alleged the dissolution ordinance was void because no petition to dissolve the district or repeal the ordinance establishing it had been filed.

The trial court granted summary judgment for the commissioners, ruling there's no reason to conclude that a governing body with the authority to establish the fire protection district doesn't have similar authority to dissolve it.

The Court of Appeals reversed because the statute doesn't allow the commissioners to unilaterally decide to dissolve a fire district. Indiana Code Section 36-8-11 explicitly provides two sections for establishment of a district either by an ordinance or by a freeholder petition, but it only addresses dissolution of a district in one section. That section explains proceedings to dissolve a district may be instituted by filing a petition with the legislative body that formed the district. The petition must be signed by a certain number of freeholders and there needs to be a public hearing on the matter.

The commissioners argued they could dissolve the district pursuant to the "Home Rule" statute, but in Indiana, if there is a constitutional or statutory provision requiring a specific manner for exercising a power, the unit wanting to exercise that power must follow that specific provision.

The appellate judges concluded that it is apparent from the various requirements of freeholder involvement in the provision for dissolution of the district, and for objecting to the dissolution, that the legislature didn't intend for this procedure to be avoided by a unilateral act of the commissioners, wrote Judge Melissa May.

The appellate court directed for summary judgment to be entered in favor of the plaintiffs.

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  1. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  2. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  3. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  4. Different rules for different folks....

  5. I would strongly suggest anyone seeking mediation check the experience of the mediator. There are retired judges who decide to become mediators. Their training and experience is in making rulings which is not the point of mediation.

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