Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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John Witt, HydroTech Corporation, and attorney Mark Shere (Appellants) were held in contempt of court for violating the terms of a temporary restraining order (TRO). The contempt holding arose from protracted litigation in a lawsuit over the costs of an environmental cleanup. The trial court issued the TRO enjoining work on the site until a preliminary injunction hearing could be held. After the TRO was issued, work on the site commenced. The trial court subsequently issued the preliminary injunction. Later, the court held Appellants in contempt and held them jointly and severally liable for $108,487 in costs and attorneys' fees. The Supreme Court granted transfer and affirmed the trial court, concluding that the trial court did not err in holding Witt, Shere, and HydroTech in contempt, determining the sanction, and imposing it jointly and severally.

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After Sawmill Creek's taxes became delinquent on its property, the Marion County Auditor set the property for tax sale. A tax deed was issued to McCord Investments upon the petition of the Auditor following the one-year redemption period after a tax sale. The trial court ultimately set aside the tax deed on grounds that the Auditor's effort to notify Sawmill of the tax sale was constitutionally deficient for failing to meet the requirements of due process. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the notices of the tax sale and of Sawmill's right to redeem did not violate due process because, under the Mullane v. Cent. Hanover Bank & Trust Co. standard, the Auditor's actions were reasonably calculated to provide notice to Sawmill.

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A federal lawsuit was brought by 128 Indiana landowners whose lands were burdened by railroad easements. Together those easements composed a railroad corridor approximately twenty-one miles in length. Because the rail lines were no longer in use, the railroad, pursuant to federal law, sought authorization from the Surface Transportation Board (STB) to abandon the easements. The STB authorized the railroad to negotiate transfer of the railroad corridor to the Indiana Trails Fund for use as a public trail ("interim trail use") in accordance with the National Trails System Act, which authorizes the STB to facilitate such transactions to preserve established railroad rights-of-way for future reactivation ("railbanking"). The court of federal claims certified to the Supreme Court the question of whether railbanking and interim trail use pursuant to the Trails Act were permitted uses within the scope of the easements under Indiana law. The Court answered in the negative, holding that railbanking and interim trail use were not uses within the scope of the easements, and railbanking with interim trail use did not constitute a permissible shifting public use.

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Steven and Lauren Siwinski, homeowners in the town of Ogden Dunes, rented their home despite receiving a cease and desist letter advising them that that rentals were prohibited by the town zoning ordinances. The town filed suit against the Siwinskis for violating town ordinances. Both parties moved for summary judgment, and the trial court granted the town's motion for summary judgment and injunctive relief. The trial court entered judgment in favor of the town in the amount of $40,000. The court of appeals reversed and remanded with instructions that the trial court enter summary judgment in favor of the Siwinskis. On transfer, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's granting of summary judgment in favor of the town, holding that the Siwinskis impermissibly rented their dwelling in violation of the town's ordinances. The Court then held that the fine for violating this ordinance should not have exceeded $32,500. Remanded.

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Countrywide Home Loans, a mortgage holder on certain real estate, foreclosed its mortgage, took title to the property at a sheriff's sale, and then sold the property to a third party. Before these events, the property owners executed a promissory note in favor of Citizens State Bank. When the property owners failed to pay the note, Citizens Bank obtained a judgment in trial court, which was properly recorded. At the time Countrywide filed its foreclosure action, it did not name Citizens Bank as a party. After Countrywide discovered Citizens Bank's judgment lien on the property, Countrywide filed an action to foreclose any interest Citizen Bank may have had on the property. Citizens Bank filed a separate complaint seeking to foreclose its judgment lien. The trial court directed Citizens Bank to redeem Countrywide's mortgage or be barred from asserting its judgment lien. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court also reversed the judgment of the trial court but on different grounds, holding that because Citizen Bank's lien on the property was properly recorded and indexed and because Countrywide did not explain why the lien was overlooked, Countrywide failed to demonstrate that it was entitled to the remedy of strict foreclosure.