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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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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