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Justices rule on casino land-ownership dispute

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A land-ownership dispute about an Ohio River riverboat-casino docking site is the subject of an Indiana Supreme Court ruling today, touching on land deeds from the 1800s and who had the right to use and give away ownership of less than an acre of land.

Justices issued their decision in Gloria A. Murray, et al. v. City of Lawrenceburg, et al., No. 15S04-0907-CV-310, which stems from a suit against the city government, a local conservancy district, and the Indiana Gaming Company that runs the Argosy Casino and Hotel in Lawrenceburg. The justices held that inverse condemnation is the sole remedy for a governmental act purporting to exercise all land-ownership rights, and that a six-year statute of limitations for trespass applies to that type of claim. The ruling reverses and remands a decision by Dearborn Circuit Judge James D. Humphrey denying a motion for judgment on the pleadings by the city and gaming company.

The case involves a 0.768-acre parcel of land situated inside a larger 32-acre parcel within Lawrenceburg that houses the riverboat casino and hotel. The plaintiffs claimed to be successors in interest based on an 1886 deed for the smaller parcel, which didn't have any established owner or ownership claims between 1941 and 1995 when it was part of the Lawrenceburg Conservancy District. But the district leased the larger area to the city and ultimately relied on an 1865 deed to include the smaller parcel, ultimately subleasing the property to Indian Gaming in 1995. The casino opened in late 1997, but it wasn't until November 2005 that Gloria Murray and other property owners sued the city, conservancy district, and gaming company over the land. The suit sought to quiet title to the disputed parcel, eject the defendants, and set aside the other deeds and leases, as well as compensate plaintiffs for lost rent under negligence and unjust-enrichment theories.

Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings under Indiana Trial Rule 12(C), arguing that even if plaintiffs owned the parcel, the only cause of action available was inverse condemnation and that was barred by a 6-year statute of limitations. Judge Humphrey denied the jury trial demand and denied the motion. The Indiana Court of Appeals initially declined to accept the appeal, but ultimately it did. In March 2009, the panel affirmed and reversed parts of Judge Humphrey's decision - upholding the judgment motion denial but reversing on the timeliness aspect and granting a jury trial demand on those claims.

Chief Judge John Baker dissented, saying the result could effectively preclude most, if not all reverse condemnation actions in the future.

In their eight-page ruling, the justices rejected the plaintiffs' claims that inverse condemnation is inappropriate because the land title is clouded. Relying on caselaw about eminent domain and injunctive relief about land being taken for a public purpose, the justices found that allowing alternative remedies would circumvent those provisions. The state, as well as other judicial jurisdictions, have previously determined that casino projects and infrastructure improvements constitute public use.

While no limitation period applies to eminent domain proceedings by the state, this case doesn't involve an action from the government about any eminent domain and so the trespass or inverse condemnation statute of limitation applies, and it's barred by Indiana Code § 34-11-2-7.

"Accordingly, we agree with the Court of Appeals that the six year limitation for trespass applies to inverse condemnation actions," Justice Theodore Boehm wrote for the court. "Plaintiffs' action accrued when they could have brought a claim for inverse condemnation. Giving plaintiffs the benefit of the doubt, the last possible date the action could have accrued was December 1997, when Indiana Gaming began operations at the site. Plaintiffs did not file this suit until Nov. 21, 2005, almost eight years after the action accrued."

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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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