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Opinions Sept. 9, 2010

September 9, 2010
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Indiana Supreme Court
Matter of the Estate of Harry L. Rickert
18S04-1002-CV-118
Civil. Reverses judgment in favor of Taylor, who was Rickert’s power of attorney, that she receive the money from accounts in which she was a joint holder. The presumption is that Taylor’s use of her power of attorney to benefit herself made those accounts invalid, and she failed to overcome that presumption to allow her to inherit the money. Remands with direction to order restoration to the estate of bank accounts owned of record by Rickert and Taylor that were created through use of Taylor’s power of attorney from Rickert and lacking any support documentation indicating participation by Rickert.

Indiana Court of Appeals
Mark Kinsel v. Robert and Dolores Schoen
25A05-0910-CV-615
Civil. Affirms denial of Kinsel’s motion to correct error following a judgment in favor of the Schoens for damages and injunctive relief against Kinsel for negligence, nuisance, and trespass. The trial court correctly determined the common enemy doctrine doesn’t apply and Kinsel may be held liable for his leaking pond.

Robert C. Bergstrom, Jr. v. State of Indiana
92A05-1003-IF-170
Infraction. Dismisses appeal because Bergstrom failed to timely file his notice of appeal within 30 days from the date his motion to correct error was deemed denied. Bergstrom did not file his notice of appeal until March 4, 2010, which, while within 30 days from the date the trial court issued an order denying Bergstrom’s motion to correct error, was not within 30 days from the date his motion was deemed denied under Indiana Trial Rule 53.3(A).

Wolverine Mutual Insurance Company v. Jeremy Oliver
20A03-1003-SC-162
Small claim. Affirms judgment in favor of Oliver in an action against him arising from an uninsured motor vehicle accident. The relaxed rules in the small-claims setting in Indiana, coupled with the provision in S.C.R. 4(A) that places the statute of limitations at issue without the need for the defendant to raise it, allows a small-claims court to decide a case based upon the statute of limitations where the defendant failed to raise or mention it at trial, but the matter was discussed during trial.

Thomas C. Temperly v. State of Indiana
49A02-1001-CR-52
Criminal. Remands with instructions to vacate the Class A misdemeanor conviction and sentence for operating a vehicle while intoxicated and enter judgment and an appropriate sentence for Class A misdemeanor operating with a blood alcohol content of 0.15 or more. There was insufficient evidence Temperly operated his vehicle while intoxicated in a manner that endangered a person. Finds the consensual chemical test was reasonable under the state and federal constitutions. The BAC evidence was validly obtained pursuant to Indiana Code Section 9-30-7-3, complied with the requirements of I.C. Section 9-30-6-2, and was admissible in Temperly’s prosecution under Chapter 9-30-5

Steve Brown v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1002-PC-227
Post conviction. Affirms denial of petition for post-conviction relief.

Wilfred V. Rhea, III v. State of Indiana (NFP)
82A01-0910-CR-485
Criminal. Vacates conviction of operating a vehicle with a BAC of at least 0.08 but less than 0.15 as a Class C misdemeanor. Remands for further proceedings.

M.S., Alleged to be C.H.I.N.S.; J.F. v. I.D.C.S. (NFP)
42A01-1001-JC-32
Juvenile. Affirms adjudication of M.S. as a child in need of services.

Ricardo A. Telfer v. State of Indiana (NFP)
20A05-1001-CR-106
Criminal. Affirms conviction of and sentence for Class B felony dealing in cocaine.

David D. Lewis v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1002-CR-139
Criminal. Affirms the search warrant issued justified the search that turned up the drugs and affirms convictions of Class A felony dealing in cocaine and Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana. Reverses conviction of Class C felony possession of cocaine and a firearm and remands to the trial court with instructions to vacate it and the sentence.

Fred Mott v. Ed Buss, et al. (NFP)

46A04-1003-SC-170
Small claim. Affirms dismissal of Mott’s small-claims action.

State of Indiana v. Charles Boyle (NFP)
49A05-0911-PC-627
Post conviction. Reverses order granting Boyle’s petition to modify his conviction of operating a motor vehicle while a habitual traffic violator as a Class D felony to a Class A misdemeanor.

Courtney E. Terhune v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1003-CR-228
Criminal. Affirms convictions of Class B felony burglary and Class D felony theft.

Kevin D. Duncan v. State of Indiana (NFP)
49A02-1003-CR-244
Criminal. Affirms conviction of Class B felony burglary.

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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