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Payment of ‘ad valorem’ taxes sustain ownership in mineral interest

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Reversing the trial court’s ruling, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded that a woman’s payment of “ad valorem” taxes on a mineral interest in Posey County prevented the lapse of her partial ownership.

Carolyn Sue Stinson appealed Posey Circuit Court’s finding that she had not paid real estate taxes on the ownership of the mineral interest and that any taxes she did pay on the royalties were not publicly documented.

The appellee, George Woodcock III, argued Stinson’s mineral interest lapsed because her tax payments were for “ad valorem” taxes.

In L.C. Westervelt, Margaret Fox, Joe Dan Trigg, Attorney-in-fact and Trustee for Lillian Guild, Marilyn Guild Ramah Lee Jones, Janice Trigg and the Guild Family Trust, Barbara Killen, Patricia Kunc, Jacqueline Medley, Paul Fennessey, Carolyn Sue Stinson, R.D. Jones, Inc., and their unknown spouses, grantees, representatives, successors, heirs, and devisees v. George Woodcock III, d/b/a West Drilling Company, 65A01-1311-PL-501, the Court of Appeals declined to read the statute as narrowly as Woodcock.

The COA noted Indiana Code 32-23-10-3(a) says a lapse in a mineral interest is prevented when “taxes are paid on the mineral interest by the owner of the mineral interest.”

Also the Court of Appeals found evidence contradicting Woodcock’s assertion that Stinson’s tax payments do not appear in the public record. The COA pointed out the county did keep track of Stinson’s mineral ownership by assessing taxes on her interest and generating tax statements that included legal descriptions and well numbers.

 “But even if Woodcock is correct that the County’s records do not include all the information they should, we decline to hold Stinson may be divested of her mineral rights solely by virtue of the Posey County Auditor’s recordkeeping procedures,” Judge Melissa May wrote.

Judge L. Mark Bailey concurred with the result but, in a separate opinion, argued the majority did not have to inquire into whether and how taxes were paid and recorded.

Since oil has continued to be drilled from the property associated with Stinson’s mineral interest, Bailey contended the plain language of the statute says that was enough to sustain her ownership.
 

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  1. Just an aside, but regardless of the outcome, I 'm proud of Judge William Hughes. He was the original magistrate on the Home place issue. He ruled for Home Place, and was primaried by Brainard for it. Their tool Poindexter failed to unseat Hughes, who won support for his honesty and courage throughout the county, and he was reelected Judge of Hamilton County's Superior Court. You can still stand for something and survive. Thanks, Judge Hughes!

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  4. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  5. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

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