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COA rules for first time on retroactivity of Mineral Lapse Act

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has held that a portion of the Mineral Lapse Act is limited in its retroactive application to only the 20-year period immediately proceeding the Sept. 2, 1971, effective date of the Act.

The first impression issue arose in Richard J. Bond and Janet A. Bond, et al. v. Templeton Coal Company, Inc., 42A01-1209-PL-419, in which Richard and Janet Bond challenged the grant of summary judgment to Templeton Coal Co. on its complaint to quiet title to certain mineral interests. The Bonds owned the real property having underlying coal and other minerals that had been conveyed to Templeton in 1960 by way of a merger. The Bonds claimed that Templeton’s interests in the minerals lapsed under the Act due to nonuse for 20 or more consecutive years, so the Bonds were the proper owners under the law.

Indiana Code 32-23-10-2 says that any interest in minerals if unused for 20 years is extinguished, with ownership reverting to the owner of the interest out of which the interest in minerals was carved. A statement of claim under this section must be filed by the owner of the mineral interest before the end of the 20-year period.

The Bonds believed that based on a 35-year period of nonuse between 1929 and 1964, Templeton’s mineral interest lapsed, despite the fact it paid taxes on those interests from 1964 on, which constitutes a use under I.C. 32-23-10-3(a)(6).

The COA determined that based on the original language of the Act, there is some retroactivity to the statute, but not as far back as the Bonds would like. It determined that Section 2 is ambiguous and should be construed to limit the application to the 20 years immediately preceding the effective date of the Act.

“Indeed, the Bonds fail to consider that, at the time Templeton’s interests were not used, 1929-1964, that nonuse was wholly consistent with the common law,” Judge Edward Najam wrote, agreeing with the rationale laid out by the District Court in the Southern District of Indiana’s decision in Am. Land Holdings of Ind. LLC v. Jobe, 655 F. Supp. 2d 882, 890 (S.D. Ind. 2009). “Considering Section 2’s ambiguity, the rule to strictly construe acts in derogation of the common law, and the Act’s underlying purposes, we hold that Section 2 is limited in its retroactive application to only the twenty-year period immediately preceding the effective date of the Act, or September 2, 1951.”

The judges affirmed summary judgment for Templeton, agreeing that Templeton holds the record title to the mineral interests and that there has been no lapse of the mineral interests under the Act.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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