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Majority upholds finding of contempt

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Three Indiana justices affirmed a trial court order finding a business owner, his attorney and an environmental firm in contempt for doing work on a site with possible environmental issues after a temporary restraining order had been issued.

At issue in John Witt, HydroTech Corp, and Mark Shere v. Jay Petroleum, Inc., and Jack R. James, No. 38S02-1110-CV-608, is whether the decision by John Witt and attorney Mark Shere to backfill holes on Witt’s property – which were dug to remove underground storage tanks and test soil – violated the terms of a temporary restraining order obtained by Jay Petroleum Inc. and Jack James, the previous owners of the land.

Jay Petroleum wanted to have its own environmental consultant on location when HydroTech Corp. began removal of the UST. The parties couldn’t agree and Witt refused to allow Jay Petroleum’s environmental consultant on the property. Jay Petroleum and James obtained a temporary restraining order that said Witt and the others are enjoined and restrained from “conducting UST removal, soil excavation, or other environmental investigation and remediation activities on the Property …”

Shere interpreted the TRO to mean that HydroTech could backfill the holes for safety reasons and also conduct testing on one of the exposed pits. Jay Petroleum filed for contempt of court; the trial court found Witt, HydroTech and Shere in contempt and held them jointly and severally liable for $108,487.32 in costs and attorney fees.

Justices Brent Dickson and Steven David and Chief Justice Randall Shepard upheld the order, finding the collection of the samples clearly violated the order and that if they believed backfilling was the only way to provide for public safety, Witt should have sought permission from the trial court. The majority also upheld the decision to exclude from trial any evidence gathered after the entry of the TRO and the costs imposed.

Justices Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan dissented, believing that the order did not prohibit any activity to ensure that the site wouldn’t pose a threat to public safety. With regards to the testing of samples, the record is unclear whether they were taken before or after the restraining order was issued and whether Witt would have used those tests in the case, wrote Rucker.

 

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  1. Poor Judge Brown probably thought that by slavishly serving the godz of the age her violations of 18th century concepts like due process and the rule of law would be overlooked. Mayhaps she was merely a Judge ahead of her time?

  2. in a lawyer discipline case Judge Brown, now removed, was presiding over a hearing about a lawyer accused of the supposedly heinous ethical violation of saying the words "Illegal immigrant." (IN re Barker) http://www.in.gov/judiciary/files/order-discipline-2013-55S00-1008-DI-429.pdf .... I wonder if when we compare the egregious violations of due process by Judge Brown, to her chiding of another lawyer for politically incorrectness, if there are any conclusions to be drawn about what kind of person, what kind of judge, what kind of apparatchik, is busy implementing the agenda of political correctness and making off-limits legit advocacy about an adverse party in a suit whose illegal alien status is relevant? I am just asking the question, the reader can make own conclsuion. Oh wait-- did I use the wrong adjective-- let me rephrase that, um undocumented alien?

  3. of course the bigger questions of whether or not the people want to pay for ANY bussing is off limits, due to the Supreme Court protecting the people from DEMOCRACY. Several decades hence from desegregation and bussing plans and we STILL need to be taking all this taxpayer money to combat mostly-imagined "discrimination" in the most obviously failed social program of the postwar period.

  4. You can put your photos anywhere you like... When someone steals it they know it doesn't belong to them. And, a man getting a divorce is automatically not a nice guy...? That's ridiculous. Since when is need of money a conflict of interest? That would mean that no one should have a job unless they are already financially solvent without a job... A photographer is also under no obligation to use a watermark (again, people know when a photo doesn't belong to them) or provide contact information. Hey, he didn't make it easy for me to pay him so I'll just take it! Well heck, might as well walk out of the grocery store with a cart full of food because the lines are too long and you don't find that convenient. "Only in Indiana." Oh, now you're passing judgement on an entire state... What state do you live in? I need to characterize everyone in your state as ignorant and opinionated. And the final bit of ignorance; assuming a photo anyone would want is lucky and then how much does your camera have to cost to make it a good photo, in your obviously relevant opinion?

  5. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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