The Indiana Supreme Court will review the question of whether a sewer lien placed on a property for unpaid bills is by itself sufficient for the property to be sold at tax sale to satisfy the debt.
Justices agreed to review the question when they granted transfer in In Re: The Carroll County 2012 Tax Sale Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District v. Steven E. Hruska, Virginia Hanna, and Equity Trust Company FBO #80677 and Carroll County, Indiana, by and through the Caroll County Auditor, 08S02-1402-MI-78.
Carroll Circuit Court ruled in favor of Steven Hruska and Virginia Hanna and removed their properties from a county tax sale list. Twin Lakes Regional Sewer District appealed, arguing that the trial court misread I.C. 13-26-14-4, but the Indiana Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed the trial court ruling. The COA held the sewer district could sue to collect on the late fees but lacked authority to seek a county tax sale.
The statute explicitly says, “A lien under this chapter that is the only lien on a property may not be foreclosed.” The Court of Appeals opinion observed in a footnote, however, that the Indiana Regional Sewer District Association filed an amicus brief in the case arguing the “misinterpretation of Ind. Code § 13-26-14-4 by the trial court and its application to all collection processes … is of paramount importance and will affect all sewer districts’ ability to collect unpaid sewer bills.”
The case is one of eight granted transfer by the Indiana Supreme Court for the week ending Feb. 7. The others are:
- Indiana State Ethics Commission, an agency of the State of Indiana, Office of Inspector General, an agency of the State of Indiana, and David Thomas, in his official capacity of Inspector General v. Patricia Sanchez, 49S02-1402-PL-80. A trial court reversed the Indiana State Ethics Commission’s ruling against Patricia Sanchez barring her from future state employment for a finding that she violated the Indiana Administrative Code by using state property for personal use. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court, holding that because theft charges against Sanchez were dismissed, the commission should not have ignored suppression of evidence in the case that led to dismissal of charges.
- In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of I.P., Minor Child and His Father, T.P. T.P. (Father) v. Child Advocates, Inc. and Indiana Department of Child Services, 49S02-1402-JT-81, and In the Matter of the Termination of the Parent-Child Relationship of: S.B., Ay.B., A.B. & K.G. (Minor Children) and K.G. (Mother) v. Marion County Department of Child Services, Child Advocates, Inc., 49S02-1402-JT-77. These two cases each concern termination of parental rights and the question of whether a magistrate who didn’t preside over evidentiary hearings may enter proposed termination orders. The Court of Appeals affirmed termination of parental rights in both cases.
- State of Indiana v. Molly Gray, 62S01-1402-CR-76. The Court of Appeals affirmed on interlocutory appeal suppression of evidence collected from Molly Gray’s van that was used to charge her with possession of methamphetamine. The appeals panel ruled that an officer who stopped Gray’s vehicle lacked reasonable suspicion to justify increasing the duration of the stop by allowing a dog to conduct an open-air sniff that indicated presence of meth.
- Tin Thang v. State of Indiana, 49S04-1402-CR-72. The Court of Appeals reversed a public intoxication conviction under amended statutory language requiring that someone endangers his life or the life of another; breaches the peace or is in imminent danger of breaching the peace; or harasses, annoys or alarms another person. Tin Thang was convicted of PI after a gas station cashier alerted a police officer that he believed Thang was intoxicated. In reversing, the COA held the revised statutory elements of the offense weren’t satisfied.
- Caterpillar, Inc. v. Indiana Department of State Revenue, 49S10-1402-TA-79, in which Tax Court Judge Martha Blood Wentworth granted summary judgment in favor of Caterpillar on its argument that foreign source dividends are deductible in calculating state net operating losses available for carryover as a deduction from taxable income in future years. Caterpillar seeks a refund of taxes paid.
- Eric Danner v. State of Indiana, 71S03-1402-PC-73, a not-for-publication opinion affirming a denial of post-conviction relief from a 50-year sentence for convictions of Class A felony possession of cocaine, misdemeanor marijuana possession and driving while suspended charges. Danner failed to convince the Court of Appeals that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.
Justices rejected transfer petitions in 27 cases. The transfer disposition list may be viewed here.