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Opinions June 9, 2011

June 9, 2011
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7th Circuit Court of Appeals
Harriett Ellis, et al. v. CCA of Tennessee LLC d/b/a Corrections Corporation of America
10-2768
U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, Judge Sarah Evans Barker.
Civil. Affirms summary judgment in favor of CCA of Tennessee on the former jail nurses’ claims of racial discrimination, hostile work environment, and violations of the state whistleblower law. Although the District Court correctly determined there was no genuine issue of material fact related to the plaintiffs’ legal claims, the District Court erred with respect to its claim preclusion ruling. That was a harmless error.

Indiana Supreme Court had posted no opinions at IL deadline.

Indiana Court of Appeals
Brian Smith v. Brendonwood Common, Inc.
49A02-1006-PL-785
Civil plenary. Affirms summary judgment for Brendonwood Common Inc. in Smith’s complaint alleging Brendonwood had violated its bylaws. Smith had no standing to bring his claim.

Josh Gold, Mitch Gold and Andrea Gold v. Cedarview Management Corp.
53A04-1007-PL-451
Civil plenary. Affirms the $48,520.44 plus interest summary judgment for Cedarview Management Corp. The trial court did not err by considering the lease agreement when determining Josh Gold was personally liable as guarantor of the lease for the payment of the settlement agreement; or by including the nonpayment of December 2008 rent in the amount owed for unpaid lease obligations outside the settlement agreement. Cedarview’s re-entry of the premises in February 2009 was not a breach of the lease.

Patrick J. Trainor v. State of Indiana
71A03-1010-CR-561
Criminal. Affirms convictions of and sentence for five counts of Class D felony counterfeiting. The state presented sufficient evidence to support the convictions and under the facts and circumstances of the case, Trainor’s aggregate sentence of seven and one-half years, suspended subject to five years probation, is appropriate.

United States Steel Corp., et al. v. Northern Indiana Public Service Co.
93A02-1006-EX-632
Agency action. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission erred when it determined that U.S. Steel’s delivery of electricity to ArcelorMittal made it a public utility for the purposes of I.C. 8-1-2-1(a). It also erred in determining that the steel provider was an “electricity supplier.” Remands with instructions to vacate these portions of the commission’s order. The commission correctly determined that U.S. Steel acted as a public utility regarding its delivery of natural gas to ArcelorMittal pursuant to I.C. 8-1-2-87.5(b) and that its resale of natural gas purchased from NIPSCO violated NIPSCO’s tariff ban on resale.

Ronald Williams v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1011-CR-1209
Criminal. Affirms murder conviction.

Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of B.M. and S.M.; J.B. v. IDCS (NFP)
28A01-1101-JT-18
Juvenile. Affirms involuntary termination of parental rights.

Asset Acceptance LLC v. Phillip Metz (NFP)
17A05-1011-CC-729
Civil corrections. Reverses order releasing the judgment as paid in full by the debtor and remands for further opinions.

Paternity of J.T.L.; J.D. v. L.L. (NFP)
45A04-1004-JP-287
Juvenile. Affirms denial of father’s motion to vacate, motion for change in magistrate, and motion for contempt and sanctions against the attorney who represented the mother.

Atashia Poe v. State of Indiana (NFP)
35A02-1008-CR-966
Criminal. Affirms sentence for Class A misdemeanor driving while suspended with a prior conviction.

William Lawhorn v. State of Indiana (NFP)
05A04-1009-CR-725
Criminal. Affirms sentence following guilty plea to Class B felony dealing in methamphetamine.

Rodney Simmons v. State of Indiana (NFP)
82A05-1006-CR-353
Criminal. Affirms sentence for Class C felony stalking.

Term. of Parent-Child Rel. of A.C., et al.; S.F. v. I.D.C.S. (NFP)
82A01-1010-JT-578
Juvenile. Affirms involuntary termination of parental rights.

William D. Harmon, Jr. v. State of Indiana (NFP)
79A05-1007-CR-473
Criminal. Vacates convictions of possession of a narcotic drug and for possession of cocaine, Counts IV, VI, VIII, and X. Vacates conviction of Count I, conspiracy to commit dealing in a narcotic drug.  Affirms habitual offender conviction and remands for the trial court to attach the habitual offender enhancement to a single conviction. Affirms admittance of evidence of Harmon’s prior conviction.

Indiana Tax Court had posted no opinions at IL deadline.
 

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  2. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  3. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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