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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. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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