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Judges rule on New Albany land case

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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Debate over land once earmarked for the 1960s expansion of Interstate 64 through New Albany has gone to the Indiana Court of Appeals, which ruled today in that case.

The three-judge panel ruled in Donald Jensen, et al. v. The City of New Albany, et al., holding that a reversionary clause in a 1960 deed was unenforceable after land was transferred to the state more than four decades ago.

Land in question was 5.82 acres known as the Fawcett property, which the original owner had left in a 1935 warranty deed to the city of New Albany for use as a municipal park and golf course. When the state began preparing to construct part of I-64 through the city, it purchased the course and Fawcett property. However, a large amount was not used and through the years was used for various recreational purposes. The state eventually executed a quitclaim deed in 2004 returning the unused I-64 land to Floyd Memorial Hospital and Community Housing Development Organization, which wanted to build houses on the property.

Appellants - six couples describing themselves as residents and park users, and some relatives of the original land owner - filed a complaint, noting the 1935 deed and reversionary clause, claiming that if the land wasn't used for its intended purpose (the park or ensuing interstate project), it would revert to the rightful heirs. The trial court denied the defendants' request for summary judgment, but it also denied appellants' request for declaratory judgment and an injunction.

In its opinion, the Court of Appeals wrote that the 1935 deed was extinguished upon the 1960 deed's execution. The decision is controlled by an Indiana Supreme Court decision - Dible v. City of Lafayette, 713 N.E.2d 269 (Ind. 1999) - which said that neither a restrictive covenant nor reversionary clause is "enforceable against an entity with the power of eminent domain."

"Appellants apparently believe that the rule in Dible is limited to those situations in which a condemning authority has actually exercised its power of eminent domain," the court wrote. "This is not the case. The question is not whether an entity condemned property, but whether the entity had the power to do so, the rationale being that if the property owner refused to sell the property, the condemning authority would simply exercise its power of eminent domain."
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  1. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  2. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  3. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

  4. Well, I agree with you that the people need to wake up and see what our judges and politicians have done to our rights and freedoms. This DNA loophole in the statute of limitations is clearly unconstitutional. Why should dna evidence be treated different than video tape evidence for example. So if you commit a crime and they catch you on tape or if you confess or leave prints behind: they only have five years to bring their case. However, if dna identifies someone they can still bring a case even fifty-years later. where is the common sense and reason. Members of congress are corrupt fools. They should all be kicked out of office and replaced by people who respect the constitution.

  5. If the AG could pick and choose which state statutes he defended from Constitutional challenge, wouldn't that make him more powerful than the Guv and General Assembly? In other words, the AG should have no choice in defending laws. He should defend all of them. If its a bad law, blame the General Assembly who presumably passed it with a majority (not the government lawyer). Also, why has there been no write up on the actual legislators who passed the law defining marriage? For all the fuss Democrats have made, it would be interesting to know if some Democrats voted in favor of it (or if some Republican's voted against it). Have a nice day.

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