ILNews

State can’t keep interest earned on unclaimed property

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Thursday with an Indiana woman acting as guardian for a relative that the state can’t retain the interest earned on unclaimed property once the owner files a valid claim to the property. Katherine Cerajeski argued that action by the state is a taking that violates the takings clause in the Constitution because the owner is paid nothing for his lost interest.

Cerajeski’s ward had a small, interest-bearing bank account, of which the value is considered property in Indiana. She learned about the bank account in 2011; it had been considered abandoned in 2006. She filed this lawsuit, seeking a declaration that she is entitled on behalf of her ward to the interest. The District Court dismissed her lawsuit, Katherine Cerajeski, guardian for Walter Cerajeski v. Greg Zoeller, Attorney General of the State of Indiana, et al., 12-3766, that challenged part of the Indiana Unclaimed Property Act.

Under Indiana statute, property owners have 25 years to claim property.

Judge Richard Posner, writing for the court, held that interest on interest-bearing unclaimed property is unclaimed property too, so the owner can claim it upon proving title.

“There is no basis for the state’s confiscating the interest in Cerajeski’s account. There is no articulated basis for fixing a 25-year term for escheat of principal and only 3 years for escheat of interest—a period so short as to present a serious question whether it is consistent with the requirement in the Fourteenth Amendment that property not be taken without due process of law, implying adequate notice and opportunity to contest.”

“And so if before then the state takes either principal or interest it must render just compensation to the owner if as in this case the owner’s identity is known. The state can charge a fee for custodianship and for searching for the owner, but the interest on the principal in a bank account is not a fee for those services.”

The case is remanded for further proceedings, including a determination of the compensation to Cerajeski when she files her claim.

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  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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