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Open Door violation not worth $8K, COA rules

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A group of petitioners who prevailed on an Indiana Open Door Law violation will get reimbursed for attorney fees, but the amount will be reduced by nearly $5,000 after a trial court found the group was requesting money for work unrelated to the claim.

Dianne and William Ross and Martha Jane and Paul Milhouse filed a complaint with the Indiana public assess counselor following the Bartholomew County Drainage Board’s impromptu visit to inspect a berm constructed along the roadway.

The public access counselor held the drainage board did violate Indiana’s Open Door Law when it traveled to the berm site without giving proper public notice.

A trial court awarded attorney fees for the violation in accordance with Indiana Code 5.14.1.5-7.

Although the Rosses and the Milhouses had filed two affidavits requesting fees totaling $8,586.25, the trial court reduced the award to $3,766. The court ruled the petitioners were including fees for other services unrelated to the Open Door Law violations.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s finding in Dianne M. Ross, William L. Ross, Martha Jane Milhouse and Paul David Milhouse v. Bartholomew County Drainage Board and Stephen A. Hoevener, Jim Pence, Ron Speaker, Jeff Schroer, and Carl Lienhoop, 03-A01-1210-PL-489.

The Court of Appeals ruled the petitioners had requested fees for work that was not part of the Open Door Law violation, including fees for a claim they subsequently dismissed.

The drainage board also filed an appeal of the attorney fee award, arguing the fees should be reduced to a nominal amount because the violations were unintentional, the board took corrective action, and the violation had no adverse impact. The Court of Appeals did not issue a ruling, concluding that would constitute a reweighing of evidence which is prohibited.

 
 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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