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Opinions May 19, 2014

May 19, 2014
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The following opinion was issued by the Indiana Tax Court after IL deadline Friday.
Van Buren Township, Madison County, Boone Township, Madison County, The Summitville Fire Protection Territory v. Department of Local Government Finance
49T10-1104-TA-27
Tax. Affirms Department of Local Government Finance denial of creation of the Summitville Fire Protection Territory because of defects in a legal advertisement to provide notice of a public hearing at which two townships proposed creation of the fire district and its authority to levy taxes. The court rejected arguments that each township published notice of the meeting on the same day in the same newspaper, so therefore a reasonable person would not have been misled by the defective legal notice.

May 19, 2014
Indiana Court of Appeals
M.S.D. of Martinsville v. Rebecca Jackson, individually and as parent and legal guardian of C.J., a Minor, and Kelli Dearth, Individually and as parent and legal guardian of B.K., a Minor
55A01-1304-CT-182
Civil tort. Affirms denial of motion for summary judgment filed by Metropolitan School District of Martinsville. The school district claimed it was immune from liability under the Indiana Torts claims Act after a shooting at Martinsville West Middle School injured two students. The Court of Appeals found the school district was not immune because the school principal’s work in developing the safety plan was not a discretionary function as exempted under the ITCA. Also the Court of Appeals ruled there are genuine issues of material fact as to whether the school district breached its duty to protect C.J. and B.K. and whether C.J. was contributorily negligent.

William Hodapp, Jr. v. State of Indiana (NFP)
07A01-1307-CR-342
Criminal. Affirms convictions of Class B felony incest, Class C felony incest, Class D felony possession of child pornography and Class A misdemeanor battery.

Russell Lawless v. Leslie Lawless (NFP)
58A01-1308-DR-366
Domestic relation. Affirms dissolution court’s deviation from the presumed equal division of marital property. Reverses the judgment of the dissolution court with respect to its determination of the amount of the marital debts and the value of the retirement plan. Remands with instructions for the dissolution court to recalculate the total amount of marital debts based upon the dates on which debts were incurred and on whose behalf, and assess the value of the retirement plan’s vested portion as of the date of the dissolution petition. The dissolution court will have discretion in determining the value of any appreciation in that portion of the retirement plan.

Michael Mason v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A04-1310-CR-493
Criminal. Affirms conviction and 65-year sentence for murder.

Gary Sistrunk v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A05-1211-CR-567
Criminal. Affirms conviction of robbery as a Class B felony. Remands with instructions to enter conviction of criminal confinement as a Class D felony and to impose a sentence consistent therewith, to be served concurrently with his sentence for the robbery conviction. Judge Michael Barnes dissents in part, arguing the robbery and confinement were not separate criminal transgressions. Therefore, the confinement conviction should be vacated entirely.  

Gary Sistrunk v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A04-1210-CR-527
Criminal. Remands with instructions to vacate Sistrunk’s conviction of criminal confinement under Count II, and to enter his conviction of robbery under Count III as a Class C felony rather than a Class B felony. Also remands to enter Sistrunk’s convictions of criminal confinement under Counts IV and V as Class D felonies rather than Class B felonies. Finally, remands to revise the sentences to be consistent with the appropriate class level for the felonies and to be served concurrently with the sentence imposed for the robbery conviction. Judge Michael Barnes dissents from the majority view that Counts III, IV and V must be reduced because Sistrunk did not repeatedly use the weapon during the commission of the crime.  

In re the Marriage of: William Adamson v. Pamela Adamson (NFP)
55A05-1310-DR-485
Domestic relation. Reverses and remands the Morgan Circuit Court’s denial of William Adamson’s motion to modify the physical custody of K.A., finding him in contempt of court and requiring him to pay Pamela Adamson’s attorney fees.

The Indiana Supreme Court and Indiana Tax Court issued no opinions by IL deadline Monday. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued no Indiana decisions by IL deadline Monday.


 

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  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. From the article's fourth paragraph: "Her work underscores the blurry lines in Russia between the government and businesses . . ." Obviously, the author of this piece doesn't pay much attention to the "blurry lines" between government and businesses that exist in the United States. And I'm not talking only about Trump's alleged conflicts of interest. When lobbyists for major industries (pharmaceutical, petroleum, insurance, etc) have greater access to this country's elected representatives than do everyday individuals (i.e., voters), then I would say that the lines between government and business in the United States are just as blurry, if not more so, than in Russia.

  4. For some strange reason this story, like many on this ezine that question the powerful, seems to have been released in two formats. Prior format here: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263 That observed, I must note that it is quite refreshing that denizens of the great unwashed (like me) can be allowed to openly question powerful elitists at ICE MILLER who are on the public dole like Selby. Kudos to those at this ezine who understand that they cannot be mere lapdogs to the powerful and corrupt, lest freedom bleed out. If you wonder why the Senator resisted Selby, consider reading the comments here for a theory: http://www.theindianalawyer.com/nominees-selected-for-us-attorney-in-indiana/PARAMS/article/44263

  5. Why is it a crisis that people want to protect their rights themselves? The courts have a huge bias against people appearing on their own behalf and these judges and lawyers will face their maker one day and answer for their actions.

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