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Refusal to remove biased board member ends potential administrative remedies

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After finding that the exhaustion of administrative remedies was excused for a company seeking to operate a stone quarry because a drainage board member was biased against the project, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled the trial court acquired subject matter jurisdiction and properly denied the board member’s motion to dismiss.

Gerry Scheub was a vocal opponent to an application filed by Singleton Stone with the Lake County Plan Commission for a zone change to allow it to construct a stone quarry. Scheub was a member of the plan commission as well as chairman of the Lake County Drainage Board, from which Singleton needed to obtain a permit after approval by the Lake County Council.

Singleton asked that Scheub recuse himself from a vote on the drainage permit, but Scheub declined. Singleton then filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment that Scheub’s participation in or attempts to influence the board’s consideration of the permit would deprive Singleton of due process and should be enjoined. Scheub and the board filed a motion to dismiss alleging the action was not justiciable for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The parties entered into a settlement conference at which Scheub agreed he would recuse himself as long as the stipulation of judgment would be filed after the primary election, in which he was running. Singleton accepted, and the parties agreed Scheub would be replaced on the board by Richard McDevitt on this matter. A week after the election, Scheub’s attorney said there was “no deal” because Scheub “changed his mind.” Singleton then filed a motion to enforce the settlement agreement. The trial court denied the motion to dismiss filed by Scheub and found the parties entered into an enforceable agreement.

In Gerry Scheub, and the Lake County Drainage Board v. Van Kalker Family Limited Partnership, Lake County Trust Company as Trustee of Trust No. 5240 and Singleton Stone, LLC, 37A03-1210-PL-453, the judges found this case to be similar to Ripley County Bd. Of Zoning Appeals v. Rumpke of Indiana, Inc., 663 N.E.2d 198 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996).

“Here, as in Rumpke, it is clear that Scheub’s actions in the quarry project amounted to an actual bias against Singleton. In order to give the Drainage Board an opportunity to prevent an error as a result of bias, Singleton requested Scheub’s disqualification,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote. “Upon the Drainage Board’s refusal to disqualify Scheub, any further action by the Drainage Board became futile and of no value under the circumstances because any decision in which a biased Board Member participates will be vacated. Therefore, as the exhaustion of administrative remedies was excused, the trial court acquired subject matter jurisdiction over the cause and properly denied Appellants’ motion to dismiss.”

 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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