Judges differ in small claims court action

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The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a trial court's decision that the plaintiff had standing to file a small claims notice against his bankruptcy attorney, but the judges disagreed on whether the court erred in denying the attorney's motion for a change of judge.

In Alfred McClure v. Jackie Cooper, No. 86A03-0801-CV-38, attorney Alfred McClure filed a verified motion to dismiss the claim for improper venue and a motion for change of judge. Jackie Cooper brought a small claims suit against McClure for a full refund of money he paid to McClure to represent him in a bankruptcy case.

Citing Hammes v. Brumley, 659 N.E.2d 1021, 1025-30 (Ind. 1995), the appellate court unanimously ruled Cooper had standing to bring his claim, even though he failed to disclose it in his notice of bankruptcy filing because a bankruptcy may be reopened so the debtor may remedy an error, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey. The Court of Appeals remanded the case with instructions to notify the bankruptcy court and trustee of the trial court's judgment of this opinion.

The appellate court also unanimously agreed the trial court was correct in denying the change of venue motion by McClure. McClure had performed services for Cooper in Warren County, as required under their signed contract for legal services, which makes Warren County a proper venue for Cooper's claim, wrote the judge.

However, the judges did not agree on the dismissal by the trial court of McClure's motion for change of judge. Judges Bailey and Ezra Friedlander agreed with the trial court's decision, finding Trial Rule 76(C)(5) narrows the window of opportunity to seek a change of judge after a trial date has been set. Pursuant to this rule, a party has three days after receiving a notice from the court that a trial date had been set to file a motion for change of judge.

In essence, in small claims cases, a claim also serves to notify the litigants of the trial setting in small claims proceedings in addition to informing the parties of the date, time, court, and relevant documents to bring. Since McClure filed his motion after more than three days had passed after receiving the notice of the claim, the trial court was correct in denying his motion, wrote Judge Bailey.

Judge James Kirsch dissented, finding the trial rule doesn't apply to the instant case. The court didn't hold a hearing, it simply set the matter for trial. Judge Kirsch finds that T.R. 76(C)(5) requires that a party appear at or have a notice of a hearing, that the court at that hearing sets a matter for trial, and the trial date is promptly entered into the Chronological Case System. Because the trial setting wasn't made in course of the conduct of the hearing, he doesn't believe the rule applies.


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.