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Ex-racer loses appeal on Porsche ownership

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals has issued its take on an ownership dispute over a classic 1979 Porsche on display at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation's Hall of Fame Museum.

Affirming now-senior U.S. Judge Larry McKinney in Indianapolis, the three-judge Circuit panel rejected the claims by a former racer who claimed that he'd loaned, not donated, the car and that it should be returned to him. The case is Reginald D. Whittington, Jr., v. Indianapolis Motor Speedway Foundation Inc, No. 08-3352.

Former driver Don Whittington - who comes from a racing family and had raced in five Indianapolis 500s and made many other high-profile races through the 1970s and '80s - sued IMS over the Kremer Racing Porsche 935 K3, which he'd driven to win the 1979 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race in France. Whittington delivered the car to the museum in the 1980s for display, but in 2004 he claimed the car should be returned because it was only on loan. The IMS refused to return the car because it had recorded the transaction as a donation in kind from Whittington and his brother Bill.

He sued for tortious conversion and replevin of the automobile, arguing in part that a conversation with former IMS grounds superintendent Charles Thompson, now deceased, had the authority to make that deal with him on behalf of the foundation. Though the car insurance was paid by the museum, various testimony and documents showed differing accounts about who the actual owner was through the years. Whittington hadn't maintained much contact with the foundation since the late '80s, when he pled guilty to federal money-laundering charges and spent 18 months in prison. At the time, he was connected to a scandal where many drivers financed their racing activities with drug-smuggling proceeds.

In 2008, Judge McKinney held a one-day bench trial and ruled against Whittington. He described the case largely a battle of witnesses who provided conflicting testimony, finding in favor of the IMS because Whittington failed to prove he owned the classic car.

The 7th Circuit agreed, pointing out that Judge McKinney made a salient and proper note of the fact that Whittington's post-transaction behavior was inconsistent with the car being on loan - mainly because he made no effort to communicate with the foundation between the 1980s and the 2004 demand.

The court decided Judge McKinney didn't clearly err in finding that Whittington failed to prove a property right for the vehicle, nor did the judge make a mistake in placing the burden of proof on Whittington as Indiana law requires. The court didn't address the donative intent, because Judge McKinney hadn't made any finding on that point.

"We are handicapped, as is Whittington, by the lack of documentation with respect to the nature of the transaction between him and the Foundation," Circuit Judge Michael Kanne wrote. "As observed by a member of this court at oral argument, the lesson for Whittington should be that an unwritten contract is not worth the paper it isn't written on."

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

  2. CCHP's real accomplishment is the 2015 law signed by Gov Pence that basically outlaws any annexation that is forced where a 65% majority of landowners in the affected area disagree. Regardless of whether HP wins or loses, the citizens of Indiana will not have another fiasco like this. The law Gov Pence signed is a direct result of this malgovernance.

  3. I gave tempparry guardship to a friend of my granddaughter in 2012. I went to prison. I had custody. My daughter went to prison to. We are out. My daughter gave me custody but can get her back. She was not order to give me custody . but now we want granddaughter back from friend. She's 14 now. What rights do we have

  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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