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Woman evicted from apartment denied due process

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The Indiana Court of Appeals held that a woman was denied due process in small claims court when the court reporter presided over an initial hearing and ordered the woman to move out of her apartment.

Daniel Capps filed a small claims complaint against tenant Lisa Reynolds for ejectment, damages and rent. A trial date was set for Sept. 13, 2011. The complaint stated the claim would be heard by the court at a trial in Sullivan Superior Court.

No judge was present for the hearing; instead, it was conducted by the court reporter. No witnesses were sworn or evidence heard. The court reporter repeatedly said that evidence relating to the allegations would be heard later. The court reporter then gave Reynolds a pre-signed “initial hearing/judgment order” form requiring her to move out of the apartment.

At a damages hearing held by a judge Sept. 30, 2011, Reynolds was ordered to pay $975.

The appellate court was concerned that there was no transcript of the hearing and that the trial court judge, who was not present at the hearing, certified a statement of evidence for Reynolds from that hearing.

“It is an understatement to say that the hearing proceeded from the outset under the expectation that Capps was entitled to immediate possession of the premises,” wrote Judge Michael Barnes in Lisa Reynolds v. Daniel Capps, No. 77A05-1110-SC-567. “Even taking into account the informality of the small claims process, if the hearings on evictions are regularly conducted without a judicial officer present, we pointedly and directly express our concern and expect that situation to be remedied.”

The Sept. 13 hearing did not satisfy minimum due process requirements, including that a judge or someone authorized to do so preside over the hearing. Reynolds wasn’t allowed the opportunity to defend against the ejectment and then was given a pre-signed order. The judges reversed the trial court.

 

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  1. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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