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Judges divided over whether city attorney could participate in demolition decision

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Two judges on the Indiana Court of Appeals Wednesday believed that a Hammond resident didn’t have the benefit of an impartial decision maker in the proceeding that ordered demolition of his property. They believed the city attorney, whose office prosecuted the case, couldn’t sit on the city board that conducted the hearing.

The city of Hammond declared a residence of Hugo Torres uninhabitable. The city conducted a hearing on the order, and the hearing board consisted of the city controller, the city engineer and the city attorney. They ordered the property demolished. The trial court affirmed.

In Hugo Torres v. City of Hammond and City of Hammond Board of Public Works and Safety, 45A03-1306-PL-205, Judges Melissa May and Chief Judge Nancy Vaidik reversed, finding Torres was deprived of his due process right to an impartial decision maker when the Hammond city attorney served on the board at the hearing while an assistant city attorney represented Hammond. The judges cited City of Hammond v. State ex rel. Jefferson, 411 N.E.2d 152, 153 (Ind. Ct. App. 1980) in support of their decision.

Judge Patricia Riley dissented, writing she did not find Jefferson to be controlling. She believed Rynerson v. City of Franklin, 669 N.E.2d 964, 967 (Ind. 1996) provides guidance.

“Giving due consideration to the presumption of honesty, integrity, and conscientiousness, I find that the present situation is free from an appearance of impropriety as Torres fails to point to any evidence — besides the city attorney’s mere presence on the Board — establishing the city attorney’s actual bias or prejudice. Nor was there any actual bias or prejudice on the part of the two other participating members of the Board,” Riley wrote.
 

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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