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Man accused of violating city ordinances entitled to jury trial

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Because the underlying substantive claims brought against an Indianapolis man regarding his treatment of his dog are quasi-criminal, he is entitled to a jury trial under the Indiana Constitution, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

The city of Indianapolis filed a civil complaint against Robert Gates alleging he violated three ordinances for allowing his dog to defecate on a public street without cleaning it up, hitting his dog multiple times, and for not having permanent identification or proof of rabies vaccination for the dog. Gates filed a demand for a jury trial, which the trial court denied.

In Robert M. Gates v. City of Indianapolis, 49A04-1210-OV-503, the Court of Appeals relied on Cunningham v. State, 835 N.E.2d 1075, 1076 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), and Midwest Security Life Insurance Co. v. Stroup, 730 N.E.2d 163, 169-70 (Ind. 2000), to find that Gates is entitled to a jury trial under Article I, Section 20 of the state Constitution.

The COA had to determine whether the cause of action at issue is equitable or legal in nature, as those terms were used in 1852 under Indiana Trial Rule 38(A), as explained by Justice Theodore Boehm in Midwest, since the ordinances at issue did not exist prior to 1852.  

The Supreme Court has held that the violation of city ordinances is of a quasi-criminal nature. Judge Edward Najam wrote that the violations at issue here are also quasi-criminal because they are enforced by the city’s Department of Public Safety, complaints are initiated and litigated by a prosecuting attorney on behalf of the city, and violators are fined by the government. The judges agreed with Gates that the mandatory fines imposed in this case are like claims for money damages, which were “exclusively legal actions in 1852.”

The COA ordered the trial court to grant Gates’ jury trial request.

 

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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