ILNews

Court's community-service policy is unenforceable

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s order that an indigent small claims litigant perform community service in lieu of paying a filing fee, holding the informal local rule requiring community service is unenforceable.

Tippecanoe Superior Court 4 has a practice of requiring community service – typically 16 hours – before the court will grant a waiver of the filing fee or have a hearing on the merits. Darlene Baca, who is disabled and indigent, wanted to sue for the return of her security deposit from her former landlord. Since she couldn’t afford the filing fee, court personnel told her she could perform the standard 16 hours of community service. She contacted Indiana Legal Services, who argued on her behalf that Baca couldn’t perform community service.

Judge Pro Tempore Gregg S. Theobald suggested she try Meals on Wheels and advised Baca’s attorney that the attorney would be responsible for helping her find four hours of community service to perform. The court did allow her claim to be filed but held in abeyance the setting of a hearing date pending Baca’s performance of community service.

On interlocutory appeal, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s order in Darlene Baca v. RPM, Inc., c/o Patty Brown, No. 79A02-1006-SC-655. The Tippecanoe Superior Court’s practice is essentially a standing order because it hadn’t been adopted as a local rule as set forth in Indiana Trial Rule 81(B). Subsection (A) of that rule includes a specific prohibition against standing orders to regulate local court or administrative district practice. As such, the practice is unenforceable, the judges ruled.

Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in a footnote that the Court of Appeals didn’t undertake to render an advisory opinion as to whether a substantively similar rule, if duly promulgated, would contravene the Open Courts Clause of the Indiana Constitution or Indiana Code Section 33-37-3-2.
 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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