COA will hear habitual offender, frat house oral arguments

The Indiana Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments this week involving a man’s prolonged fight against his habitual offender status as well as a dispute regarding an Indiana University fraternity house property.

City of Bloomington BZA v. UJ-Eighty Corporation, 19A-PL-00457, concerns a dispute between the property owner and the city of Bloomington over the use of a former Indiana University fraternity house. UJ-Eighty Corporation had leased one of its properties near the university’s campus to the Gamma-Kappa Chapter of Tau Kappa Epsilon between August 2016 to May 2019. By Feb. 2018, however, the university notified TKE members that its fraternity would no longer be recognized at the school, and therefore all members living in the house must move out.

Although most members found other housing and left the property, two members continued to reside in the house. But because the property no longer met Bloomington’s Unified Development Ordinance definition of a “Fraternity/Sorority House,” which was a permitted use in institutional zoning districts, Bloomington’s Planning and Transportation Department issued two notices of violation to UJ-Eighty.

The issuance of the violation notices was affirmed on appeal by the Bloomington Board of Zoning Appeals, but a trial court granted UJ-Eighty’s petition, which found that Bloomington’s UDO definition was unconstitutional under Article IV, Section I of the Indiana Constitution and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The City of Bloomington’s appeal is set to be heard by a panel consisting of judges Mark L. Bailey, Margret Robb and Rudolph Pyle III on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

Then on Wednesday, a different appellate panel will hear Stanley Watson v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-00049. There, Stanley Watson appeals his habitual offender status after serving nearly 11 years in the Department of Correction as a habitual offender. Watson had attained post-conviction relief and had his habitual offender status vacated, but the state realleged him to be a habitual offender based on other information. After continuances, delays and recusals amounting to almost another seven years, Watson was once again adjudicated as a habitual offender.

On appeal, Watson challenges his habitual offender status, arguing that Indiana Criminal Rule 4(C)’s one-year discharge requirement applies to rehearings for habitual offender adjudications. He also asserts that even if Criminal Rule 4(C) does not apply, his right to a speedy trial was violated because his specific six-and-two-thirds-year delay was unreasonable.

Appellate judges John Baker, James Kirsch and Terry Crone will hear Watson’s appeal on Wednesday at 10 a.m.

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