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Judges: Couple lacked standing to challenge road closure

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled that a trial court properly dismissed a couple’s complaint over the closure of an access road into a cemetery where their daughter is buried.

In Lewis J. Richardson and Laurel Richardson v. Board of Commissioners of Owen County, No. 60A01-1106-PL-228, Lewis and Laurel Richardson sought to prevent the Owen County Board of Commissioners from granting Junior Sips’ request to vacate a portion of a roadway on his property that had allowed access to the cemetery where the Richardsons’ daughter is buried and where they own several plots. The road used to be maintained by the county, but hadn’t been maintained since the 1950s. Sips installed a gate along his property line, which abutted the cemetery land.

The Richardsons asked that the gate be removed and the road be repaired so that it could be used again. The county commissioners passed the ordinance allowing the portion of the road to be vacated. The Richardsons then filed a complaint in court to set aside the ordinance. The trial court determined that the Richardsons are not aggrieved persons under the statute and not eligible to appeal.

The COA affirmed, finding the Richardsons lacked standing because they do not own land abutting the cemetery and failed to show that they’ve sustained an injury that is unique or special to them. They did not use the road in question to access the cemetery, and other roads provide access to the land. The general public’s ability to visit the cemetery is not hindered by the gate anymore than it has been for the last five decades, or more, wrote Judge John Baker.

 

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  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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