COA reverses, remands to set aside expired body attachment writ

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A  body attachment writ was expired when its subject was arrested, the Court of Appeals of Indiana ruled in reversing the denial of the subject’s motion to set aside the writ.

In September 2020, the Small Claims Division of the Floyd Superior Court entered an $800 default judgment against Lacey Ann Murphy and Justin Bond and in favor of William Cook.

Cook later filed a motion for proceedings supplemental, and in February 2021, the court issued an order for Murphy and Bond to appear.

However, Murphy failed to appear, so the court issued a rule to show cause for failing to appear and ordered Murphy to appear on a new date. But she continued to fail to appear at the newly scheduled hearing dates, prompting the issuance of a body attachment writ.

Murphy did appear in May 2021 and agreed to being paying $200 a month.

Then in January, Murphy was stopped by a sheriff’s deputy because her license plate was not visible. The deputy was advised by dispatch that there was an active warrant for body attachment for Murphy, so she was handcuffed and taken to the Floyd County Jail, where she was held over the weekend.

In April, Murphy filed a Motion to Set Aside Body Attachment together with exhibits, including her affidavit and an incident report from the Floyd County Sheriff’s Department.

She argued that the body attachment and the process by which it was obtained failed to conform with Indiana Trial Rule 64(A) and should have been set aside. She also claimed the rule to show cause was not served on her personally or by certified mail, and the body attachment did not include information sufficient to identify her, expired 180 days after it was issued, failed to include the expiration date and should have been recalled after she appeared in court.

The trial court denied Murphy’s motion to set aside body attachment. In response, Murphy filed a motion to correct error, which the court did not rule on. It was subsequently deemed denied.

On appeal, Murphy argued that the trial court failed to provide the protections mandated by Indiana Trial Rule 64(A) and erred in denying her motion to set aside.

The appellate court determined she had established prima facie error.

“The record reveals that several of the requirements of Trial Rule 64(A) were not satisfied,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote. “… We reverse and remand to the Floyd Superior Court with instructions to grant Murphy’s April 4, 2023 Motion to Set Aside Body Attachment.

“We urge courts to be mindful of the provisions and requirements of Trial Rule 64(A) with respect to issuing a body attachment including the provision that such an attachment for a person expires 180 days after it is issued and the requirement that the expiration date shall appear on the face of the writ,” Brown added.

Judges L. Mark Bailey and Melissa May concurred in Lacey Ann Murphy v. William Cook, 23A-SC-1614.

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