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COA reverses finding IDEM breached agreement

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the finding that the Indiana Department of Environmental Management breached a settlement agreement because the trial court didn't have subject matter jurisdiction to determine whether it committed a breach.

IDEM and NJK Farms entered into a settlement agreement in 2005 after a petition for judicial review was remanded to Marion Superior Court. The two parties were in a dispute about the denial of a permit application to operate a landfill in Fountain County. The agreement laid out the terms required for IDEM to grant the permit. While a permit application was pending before IDEM in 2008 and scheduled for a public comment period, the Indiana legislature passed a law concerning permits for solid waste landfills in counties without comprehensive zoning regulations.

Fountain County at that time didn't have a zoning ordinance, but a month later enacted regulations that included landfills. IDEM asked NJK to submit a new application because of the statute and the new Fountain County ordinances. NJK instead filed a motion with the trial court alleging IDEM breached the settlement agreement. IDEM then denied the permit and NJK filed a petition for review with the Office of Environmental Adjudication that it find the trial court had subject matter jurisdiction. An administrative law judge stayed the petition pending ruling of the trial court. The trial court found it had exclusive jurisdiction and that IDEM breached the settlement.


On interlocutory appeal in Ind. Dept. of Environmental Management v. NJK Farms, Inc., No. 49A02-0902-CV-123, the Court of Appeals concluded Marion Superior Court didn't have jurisdiction over the matter, relying on Ind. Dept. of Environmental Management v. Raybestos Products Co., 897 N.E.2d 469 (Ind. 2008). The Indiana Supreme Court held that the exclusive means for review of IDEM's actions was by petition for review by the OEA and that money damages aren't authorized under the state Administrative Orders and Procedures Act.

In the instant case, IDEM is an agency subject to the AOPA, and IDEM's entry into the settlement agreement and actions following the agreement regarding NJK's permit application were agency actions, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. NJK argued that Raybestos is inapplicable and the settlement agreement was a contract and not an agency action because it arose out of a judicial proceeding instead of an administrative one. NJK argued if an agreement was entered to resolve issues during the administrative process, the AOPA would apply and damages couldn't be awarded. If an agreement was entered after a petition for judicial review, then AOPA wouldn't apply and the agency could be liable for damages.

That interpretation would lead to illogical results contrary to the purpose of the AOPA, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. "Clearly, it is better for such issues to be presented in the typical administrative review process prior to consideration by the trial court," he wrote. "The administrative review process allows IDEM to correct its own mistakes and allows those with the requisite expertise a first look at the issues." The judicial review of the OEA's determination in 2000 that NJK was not a real party in interest didn't confer jurisdiction on the Marion Superior Court to directly review all further actions of IDEM regarding NJK's permit application, wrote the judge. Money damages to NJK aren't authorized under the AOPA. The case was remanded for further proceedings.

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  1. Im very happy for you, getting ready to go down that dirt road myself, and im praying for the same outcome, because it IS sometimes in the childs best interest to have visitation with grandparents. Thanks for sharing, needed to hear some positive posts for once.

  2. Been there 4 months with 1 paycheck what can i do

  3. our hoa has not communicated any thing that takes place in their "executive meetings" not executive session. They make decisions in these meetings, do not have an agenda, do not notify association memebers and do not keep general meetings minutes. They do not communicate info of any kind to the member, except annual meeting, nobody attends or votes because they think the board is self serving. They keep a deposit fee from club house rental for inspection after someone uses it, there is no inspection I know becausee I rented it, they did not disclose to members that board memebers would be keeping this money, I know it is only 10 dollars but still it is not their money, they hire from within the board for paid positions, no advertising and no request for bids from anyone else, I atteended last annual meeting, went into executive session to elect officers in that session the president brought up the motion to give the secretary a raise of course they all agreed they hired her in, then the minutes stated that a diffeerent board member motioned to give this raise. This board is very clickish and has done things anyway they pleased for over 5 years, what recourse to members have to make changes in the boards conduct

  4. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  5. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

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