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Reversal: Officer’s suit reinstated, bond requirement ambiguous

November 8, 2018

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment to a Northeastern Indiana city when it found the lower court failed to fix a bond amount for a disciplined police officer by the time of judgment.

Stephan Poiry is a City of New Haven police officer. In August 2017, disciplinary charges were filed against Poiry, and the New Haven Police Department Merit Board ultimately determined the charges were proven and Poiry should be demoted in rank.

Poiry filed an appeal with the trial court in November 2017 against the city, seeking judicial review of the Board’s decision. When he filed his appeal, Poiry claimed he was unaware of the required bond amount, so he did not file a bond simultaneously with his appeal.

A bond amount had still not been determined at the time summary judgment was entered by the trial court in favor of the city. Poiry filed a motion to correct error in April 2018, but the trial court denied his motion.

On appeal, Poiry argued that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment in favor of the city and in denying his motion to correct error. Specifically, he asserts that Indiana Code section 36-8-3.5-18(b)(4) is ambiguous in that it required that a bond be filed, but does not state in what amount the bond should be and how the required bond is to be determined.

He also contended that he was not aware of the amount he should pay to satisfy the bond requirement when he filed his appeal of the commission’s decision because it was ambiguous.

The appellate court found that although Indiana Code section 36-8-3.5-18 subsection (b)(4) clearly states a bond must be filed when an appeal is filed, “the statute is not clear or unambiguous in directing how that bond is to be determined and in what amount it is to be paid.”

“Because the trial court failed to fix a bond amount, Poiry was unable to pay the bond required under Indiana Code section 36-8-3.5-18 for his appeal of the Board’s decision,” Judge James Kirsch wrote. “Based on this, we conclude that the trial court erred when it granted summary judgment in favor of the City and when it denied Poiry’s motion to correct error.

“We, therefore, reverse the trial court and remand with instructions for the trial court to set a bond amount it considers adequate and a time frame within which the bond must be posted. If Poiry does not post the bond within the time frame, the trial court may enter an order dismissing the appeal. If the bond is properly paid in the amount set by the trial court and within the time frame, the case is to continue on the merits.”

The case is Stephan M. Poiry v. City of New Haven, Indiana,18A-MI-1066.

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