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Property tax assessment prevents township from controlling cemetery

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Because a couple had paid taxes on the land where a cemetery existed since 1967, the township did not have authority under Indiana law to exercise control over that cemetery, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed Monday.

George and Zelma Bitzer purchased land in Wabash County in 1967 that contained one acre of land that previous owners Solomon and Nancy Fry deeded in 1872 “to the public” to be used as a cemetery. There is a dispute as to how many people are buried in the Belden Cemetery. The cemetery was not maintained by the township trustee and became overgrown. The cemetery was also mistakenly taxed as part of the Bitzers’ property since they purchased it. The couple cleared the area except for the grave markers of the Frys and placed a fence around it. The township trustee believed the Bitzers desecrated the cemetery, but the county prosecutor declined to prosecute.

The township then filed a complaint seeking to quiet title, establish its interest in preserving the cemetery, and recover damages for the Bitzers’ actions. The trial court granted summary judgment for the couple and denied the township’s motion.

Under I.C. 23-14-68-1, the township does not have authority over the cemetery because the Bitzers paid taxes on the assessed land on which the cemetery sits, the COA ruled.

“The statute authorizing a Township Trustee to exercise control over cemeteries located within the township is inapplicable where the cemetery is located on land on which property taxes have been paid. And here, even though there was a genuine issue of material fact with regard to whether and to what extent the dedication of the Belden Cemetery to the public was accepted by the public through usage, there is no genuine issue of material fact with regard to the Bitzers’ payment of property taxes on the land on which the Belden Cemetery is located for decades. For this reason alone, the Township’s claims of authority over the Belden Cemetery must fail,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in Lagro Township and Karen Pinkerton Tatro v. George E. Bitzer and Zelma E. Bitzer, 85A02-1306-PL-520.

“Although the Township makes an extensive argument that the Bitzers’ actions have desecrated the Belden Cemetery contrary to law, this is a criminal matter left to the discretion of the county prosecutor. As indicated above, to date, the County Prosecutor has declined to file charges against the Bitzers, and the claim of intentional infliction of emotional distress filed against the Bitzers was dismissed.”

 

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  1. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  2. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

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  4. Dear Fan, let me help you correct the title to your post. "ACLU is [Left] most of the time" will render it accurate. Just google it if you doubt that I am, err, "right" about this: "By the mid-1930s, Roger Nash Baldwin had carved out a well-established reputation as America’s foremost civil libertarian. He was, at the same time, one of the nation’s leading figures in left-of-center circles. Founder and long time director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Baldwin was a firm Popular Fronter who believed that forces on the left side of the political spectrum should unite to ward off the threat posed by right-wing aggressors and to advance progressive causes. Baldwin’s expansive civil liberties perspective, coupled with his determined belief in the need for sweeping socioeconomic change, sometimes resulted in contradictory and controversial pronouncements. That made him something of a lightning rod for those who painted the ACLU with a red brush." http://www.harvardsquarelibrary.org/biographies/roger-baldwin-2/ "[George Soros underwrites the ACLU' which It supports open borders, has rushed to the defense of suspected terrorists and their abettors, and appointed former New Left terrorist Bernardine Dohrn to its Advisory Board." http://www.discoverthenetworks.org/viewSubCategory.asp?id=1237 "The creation of non-profit law firms ushered in an era of progressive public interest firms modeled after already established like the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ("NAACP") and the American Civil Liberties Union ("ACLU") to advance progressive causes from the environmental protection to consumer advocacy." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cause_lawyering

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