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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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  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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