ILNews

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. 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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