ILNews

Court won't remove trial judge in Simon case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has dismissed an appeal filed by Melvin Simon’s widow, finding that it doesn’t have jurisdiction to remove a Hamilton Superior judge from the case involving the late mall-magnate’s estate valued at more than $2 billion.

Bren Simon had petitioned the appeals court to remove Hamilton Superior Judge William J. Hughes after he removed her as interim trustee over her late husband's estate and appointed former Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore Boehm. She’d lost one appeal in April after the appellate court dismissed her arguments about her removal, but Simon also challenged the judge’s presiding over the case and making that decision in the first place.

In this appeal, she argued Hughes should have recused himself because he’d briefly hired two attorneys from Bingham McHale to represent him on his out-of-state drunk driving case, and that same firm represented Simon Property Group on related estate matters.

But in a 21-page decision Thursday, appellate Judges Edward Najam and Melissa May disagreed with Simon and dismissed the appeal. They determined that once Simon was removed as interim trustee, she lost the ability to prosecute any appeal and that ability fell to her appointed successor. They noted that Simon was not a party in her individual capacity in the trial court.

 “Accordingly, we hold that Bren lacks standing to maintain this appeal in either a representative capacity or an individual capacity. Thus, we are without jurisdiction to consider this appeal on the merits,” Najam wrote.

They relied on Weiland v. Scheuch, 123 Ind. App. 421, 422-23, 111 N.E.2d 664, 664 (1953), that found a personal representative can’t prosecute an appeal of the removal order after that person has already been removed . By extension, as in Simon’s case, the removed trustee can’t later appeal a collateral order such as the trial judge’s refusal to recuse himself.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented and said the majority’s decision dismissing the interlocutory appeal is “a disservice to justice,” and that their entire operational premise is wrong. She found that Simon isn’t appealing Hughes’ removal order, but instead is appealing his earlier order in which he refused to recuse himself.

Riley pointed out that by removing someone as trustee and cutting off their standing to appeal, a trial court could effectively shield itself from judicial scrutiny by removing or dismissing a party seeking the trial court’s recusal.

“Based on the facts before us, I conclude that Bren has standing to bring this appeal as she is aggrieved by Judge Hughes' refusal to recuse himself,” she wrote, citing state statutes that allow for aggrieved parties to appeal a court decision. “In reaching this conclusion, the majority clearly affirmed Appellees’ argument which was raised as a red herring in their brief to obscure the pertinent issue before us. Unfortunately, the majority took the bait.”

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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