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Judge dissents in eviction case

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There is "potential for abuse" when an armed and uniformed police officer is at the scene of a self-help eviction or repossession of a private party, according to an Indiana Court of Appeals judge.

Judge James Kirsch dissented from his colleagues in Mark Harness Jr. v. Paul Schmitt and Town of Winona, No. 43A05-0909-CV-528, in which the majority upheld the finding that police officer Paul Schmitt was immune from tort liability. Mark Harness alleged Schmitt unlawfully assisted in a false eviction when Schmitt went to the house Harness was renting at the request of the homeowner to evict Harness.

"While it may not be improper per se for an armed and uniformed police officer to accompany a private party to the scene of self-help eviction or repossession, such a practice is fraught with the potential for abuse," wrote Judge Kirsch. "It creates the false impression that the eviction or repossession is being effected pursuant to court authority although the officer has no way of knowing whether the eviction or repossession is lawful or unlawful."

He believed there were material questions of fact whether Schmitt was assisting in an unlawful eviction and would remand for trial.

But the majority held Schmitt was acting in the scope of his employment and engaged in law enforcement when he went to Harness' house. Even though the record doesn't explain why the eviction notice was "false," Schmitt would still be immune from liability, wrote Judge Melissa May.

He wasn't acting outside the scope of his duties because police officers are often required to keep the peace and enforce laws. Schmitt was at the house to prevent any breach of peace.

"We decline to hold an officer's presence at a place where a breach of the peace might be anticipated is, as a matter of law, outside the definition of 'law enforcement,'" she wrote.

The appellate court also denied attorney fees for Schmitt.

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  1. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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