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Justices remind parties about decision certification

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The Indiana Supreme Court has granted a rehearing on the appeal involving East Chicago casino money, using the chance to warn parties to not jump the gun in how it responds once an appellate ruling is initially issued.

Issuing a three-page rehearing petition ruling today in Foundations of East Chicago, Inc., Successor by Merger to East Chicago Community Development Foundation, Inc. and Twin City Education Foundation, Inc. v. City of East Chicago, No. 49S02-0908-CV-00383, the justices unanimously clarified an earlier mandate but mostly left intact its original opinion from May.

In that earlier ruling, the justices reversed a decision by Marion Superior Judge S.K. Reid that had gone in favor of the city on the case involving a casino-revenue agreement in East Chicago. The case involves two non-profit entities that received riverboat casino revenue through a local development agreement with the city. But East Chicago officials later redirected to the city some of the money that had been going to the successor of the two non-profits by using an ordinance allowed through Section 302 of the 2007 state budget bill, which gave municipalities the ability to void terms of these agreements ultimately signed off on by the Indiana Gaming Commission. The Foundations sued, and Judge Reid ruled for the city and found the Foundations didn't have standing to sue but left open a question about statute constitutionality.

The Supreme Court previously bypassed that constitutionality question. They determined the Foundations has standing, but on the issue of whether the Foundations is able to receive funds under the gaming license as the two non-profit predecessors did, the justices left that open as an administrative law matter the gaming commission should decide.

Following that decision, the Foundations reported that before the Indiana Supreme Court decision had been certified, the city had moved the trial court to terminate the escrow account into which the license holder’s economic development contributions have been deposited, as well as return the account balance to East Chicago.

“The motion was, of course, premature under the appellate rules,” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote, citing Indiana Appellate Rule 65(E) that stipulates parties shouldn’t take any action relying on an appellate opinion or memorandum until that ruling is certified. “The trial court rightly denied the City’s request on that ground alone.”

But taking it a step further, the chief justice wrote that the city’s motion for an order directing that the escrow funds be transferred to East Chicago should also be denied on the merits, even if timely filed. The reason was that the request fell within the core of the justices’ previous decision that was adverse to the city’s position that it possessed unilateral authority to redirect the funds.

 

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