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Judges: Town ordinance invalid

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The Indiana Court of Appeals declared today a Plainfield town ordinance authorizing the imposition of storm-water fees on properties outside of the town's corporate boundaries to be invalid because under Indiana Code, the town only has the authority to collect the fee within its corporate limits.

In Board of Commissioners of Hendricks County, Ind., and Daum LLC, et al. v. Town of Plainfield, et al.,  No. 32A05-0806-CV-342, Daum LLC and the Hendricks County Commissioners appealed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Plainfield in a dispute about a town ordinance regulating storm water.

In July 2006, the commissioners adopted a county ordinance that created a County Stormwater Management Board; two weeks later, Plainfield adopted a town ordinance establishing the Stormwater Department, which authorized the imposition of a storm-water fee on all property within the sewage works system service area, including those outside the corporate boundaries that used its sewer services. Daum LLC was located in Hendricks County and outside the corporate boundaries of Plainfield. Because Daum used the town's sewer system, it imposed a storm-water fee against the company.

Daum filed suit against Plainfield and the county commissioners alleging the town ordinance violated or was inconsistent with Indiana law. Hendricks County filed a cross-claim against Plainfield alleging the town ordinance was limited to property located within the corporate boundaries of Plainfield. The trial court granted Plainfield's motion for summary judgment against Daum seeking declaratory judgment the ordinance was enforceable, declared the ordinance valid, and denied Daum's and the commissioners' motions for summary judgment against Plainfield.

The Court of Appeals ruled the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the town in finding the ordinance was valid and enforceable. Plainfield didn't have standing under the Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act to file a counterclaim for declaratory judgment. While a municipality can file a declaratory judgment regarding its rights when the ordinance of another municipality or county affects those rights, the UDJA doesn't contemplate the same municipality can sue to have its own ordinance declared valid, wrote Judge James Kirsch.

The appellate court analyzed the Storm Water Act, Indiana Code Chapter 8-1.5-5; the Municipal Utilities Act, I.C. Chapter 8-1.5-3; and the Sewage Works Act, I.C. Chapter 36-9-23, to determine Plainfield has the authority to collect its storm-water fee only within its corporate limits. Hendricks County has the power to impose storm-water fees to those located outside a municipal corporate limit but within county boundaries, wrote Judge Kirsch.

The language in the Storm Water Act, "All territory in the district and all territory added to the district is considered to have received special benefits from the storm-water collection," doesn't allow Plainfield to collect a fee from Daum because this language only says a territory can be added by means of annexation. The town ordinance illegally charges a storm-water fee on property outside the corporate boundaries. The appellate court declared invalid all provisions of Plainfield's ordinance that authorize the imposition of storm-water fees on properties outside the corporate boundaries and ordered the town to return all fees paid pursuant to the town ordinance.

The Court of Appeals remanded the case to the trial court with instructions to enter summary judgment in favor of Hendricks County and against Plainfield. There is no genuine issue of material fact that Daum's property is within Hendricks County's storm water jurisdiction and is subject fees pursuant to the county ordinance, wrote Judge Kirsch.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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