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Justices rule in favor of Vincennes Girl Scouts in dispute over camp

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Indiana Code 32-17-10-2 is unconstitutional as applied retroactively to a land-use restriction in a Vincennes Girl Scout organization’s deed requiring an Illinois Girl Scout group to use deeded land as a camp for 49 years.

In Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois v. Vincennes Indiana Girls, Inc., 42S00-1210-PL-597, Vincennes Indiana Girls Inc. deeded its Camp Wildwood in 1965 to Girl Scouts of Southern Illinois on the condition that scouting use continue for 49 years, with the deed providing that ownership of the campground would revert to VIG if the scouting-use condition was breached during that time. The deed also said that GSSI couldn’t convey, sell or dispose of the camp in any fashion for that 49-year period unless VIG’s existence is terminated during that time.  

In January 2009, GSSI stopped using the camp for Girl Scout activities and decided to sell it. After it informed VIG of its intent, VIG discovered that it had been administratively dissolved in 2004 for failure to pay annual feels to the secretary of state. It was reinstated in August 2009. Both parties sued for quiet title to the camp, with the trial court granting summary judgment quieting title to VIG.

GSSI claimed that VIG’s reversionary interest expired by operation of I. C. 32-17-10-2, which limits reversionary clauses in land transactions to a maximum of 30 years. It also argued that VIG’s administrative dissolution in 2004 allowed GSSI to sell the camp.

Based on Indiana law, VIG’s corporate existence continued, in a limited capacity, even while it was administratively dissolved, and its reinstatement was retroactive as if the dissolution hadn’t occurred, Justice Loretta Rush wrote. As such, its reversionary rights did not terminate by operation of the deed.

“Here, though the parties only intended the restriction to run for 49 years instead of indefinitely, their contract would nevertheless be substantially impaired if it were cut off after just 30 years by applying Indiana Code section 32-17-10-2 — an effect just as ‘permanent, irrevocable, and retroactive in altering the [parties’] contractual relationships as in Clem (v. Christole, Inc.) 582 N.E.2d 780, 782 (Ind. 1991),” Rush wrote. “We see no reason this restriction, and the contractual relationship it creates, should have any less constitutional protection in a condition subsequent than in a restrictive covenant as in Clem.”

“And because VIG’s interest imposes a land-use restriction similar to a restrictive covenant, it deserves the same level of Contracts Clause protection. Since the parties bargained for a 49-year land use limitation on Camp Wildwood, terminating that restriction after just 30 years would substantially impair VIG’s contract rights. Indiana Code section 32-17-10-2 is therefore unconstitutional as applied retroactively to the land-use restriction in VIG’s deed to GSSI.”

The justices affirmed the grant of quiet title to VIG.

 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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