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Judges disagree on whether landowners are 'aggrieved'

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Jurists on the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed on an issue of first impression about what an “aggrieved” party is when it comes to filing a mandate or injunction against a water conservancy district under state statute.

In a 2-1 ruling today in Phyllis and Michael Klosinski v. Cordry Sweetwater Conservancy District, No. 07A01-1008-PL-429, the court majority affirmed and reversed in part a decision from Brown Circuit Judge Judith Stewart involving the construction of sanitary sewer facilities and alleged failure to keep a pair of local lakes sediment-free.

The Klosinskis have owned property in the conservancy district since 1979, and about three years ago they asked for court action against the governing board because the district was exceeding its statutory authority by enacting rules on issues including building codes, road use, the creation of a police force, and carrying firearms. The trial court denied most injunction requests but did issue a general injunction prohibiting the district from establishing or enforcing rules that don’t further its statutory purposes.

Both sides filed appeals, with the Klosinskis arguing the lower court erred by denying their injunction petition while the district argued the property owners didn’t have standing to sue in the first place because they aren’t “aggrieved” parties.

Indiana Code Section 14-33-5-24 governs conservancy districts and proves that “an interested person adversely affected by an action committed or omitted by the board in violation of this chapter may petition the court having jurisdiction over the district to enjoin or mandate the board.”

No state cases have specifically addressed the meaning of “an interested person adversely affected,” though the Indiana Supreme Court in 2004 did address a similar issue in the context of the Administrative Orders and Procedures Act using a definition from Black’s Law Dictionary that said the concept of aggrieved is a “personalized harm.”

In this case, Judges Michael Barnes and Nancy Vaidik determined that the Klosinskis had no specific harm and only demonstrated a general concern as taxpayers to bring standing – they weren’t denied building permits or fined or sued by the district, for example.

“General standing principles are inapplicable here,” the majority wrote. “To be ‘adversely affected,’ the Klosinskis must have more than a generalized concern. They must identify a specific harm to pecuniary, property, or personal interest. Simply arguing that they are taxpayers is insufficient.”

The two-judge majority pointed to how this standing issue created problems with the trial court order in this case, which partially grants and denies various parts of what the property owners were asking. That leaves the district little guidance on what actions are outside its statutory purposes, they wrote.

But Judge John Baker dissented on the “aggrieved party” aspect of the case, finding that the Klosinskis did have standing because they lived in the district and would be impacted by these rules and any assessments or fees that might result from these actions. Applying the rationale from a case involving the AOPA isn’t the way to resolve this dispute where the record established these property owners are “aggrieved,” he wrote.

“The statute at issue here is the Conservancy Act, Indiana Code section 14-33-1-1 et seq., and the Klosinskis asserted that the District was violating the statute by exceeding its authority in several areas,” Judge Baker wrote. “As noted above, the Klosinskis were directly affected by the District’s rules and regulations and they pay the fees for the District’s services. The aim of the Klosinskis was to see an order compelling the District to follow the law and refrain from acting beyond its authority.”
 

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  1. Being on this journey from the beginning has convinced me the justice system really doesn't care about the welfare of the child. The trial court judge knew the child belonged with the mother. The father having total disregard for the rules of the court. Not only did this cost the mother and child valuable time together but thousands in legal fees. When the child was with the father the mother paid her child support. When the child was finally with the right parent somehow the father got away without having to pay one penny of child support. He had to be in control. Since he withheld all information regarding the child's welfare he put her in harms way. Mother took the child to the doctor when she got sick and was totally embarrassed she knew nothing regarding the medical information especially the allergies, The mother texted the father (from the doctors office) and he replied call his attorney. To me this doesn't seem like a concerned father. Seeing the child upset when she had to go back to the father. What upset me the most was finding out the child sleeps with him. Sometimes in the nude. Maybe I don't understand all the rules of the law but I thought this was also morally wrong. A concerned parent would allow the child to finish the school year. Say goodbye to her friends. It saddens me to know the child will not have contact with the sisters, aunts, uncles and the 87 year old grandfather. He didn't allow it before. Only the mother is allowed to talk to the child. I don't think now will be any different. I hope the decision the courts made would've been the same one if this was a member of their family. Someday this child will end up in therapy if allowed to remain with the father.

  2. Ok attorney Straw ... if that be a good idea ... And I am not saying it is ... but if it were ... would that be ripe prior to her suffering an embarrassing remand from the Seventh? Seems more than a tad premature here soldier. One putting on the armor should not boast liked one taking it off.

  3. The judge thinks that she is so cute to deny jurisdiction, but without jurisdiction, she loses her immunity. She did not give me any due process hearing or any discovery, like the Middlesex case provided for that lawyer. Because she has refused to protect me and she has no immunity because she rejected jurisdiction, I am now suing her in her district.

  4. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

  5. Sam Bradbury was never a resident of Lafayette he lived in rural Tippecanoe County, Thats an error.

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