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Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Ind. Decisions - More on yesterday's Supreme Court decision re the Fort Wayne airport

Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette writes today:

INDIANAPOLIS – The Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority got welcome news from the Indiana Supreme Court on Tuesday when the five justices ruled unanimously to throw out a lawsuit challenging the airport authority’s constitutionality.

Several supporters of Smith Field banded together as SMDfund and sued in 2003, alleging that the airport authority was illegal because it was created in 1985 by special legislation.

The challenge could have altered the fate of more than 500 laws on Indiana’s books that benefit specific communities or counties.

Instead, the court decided the case on procedural grounds and didn’t venture near the constitutional questions surrounding the case.

The decision said the doctrine of laches – sometimes referred to as when people sleep on their rights – barred the case from moving forward. Laches requires an inexcusable delay in asserting a known right and a change in circumstances causing prejudice to the opposing party, the ruling said. The first element was easily satisfied because the plaintiffs waited 17 years before bringing suit.

In addition, the justices ruled the airport authority would be prejudiced because it has incurred more than $44 million in debt and entered into a variety of leases, contracts and other obligations since its creation. * * *

Joe Tocci, chairman of the SMDfund, said that it took more than seven months for the justices to essentially decide the case on procedural grounds.

“We are relieved they finally made a ruling, but I’m rather perplexed,” he said.

Tocci’s counsel, Charles Shedlak of South Bend, said he was disappointed that the court didn’t rule on whether the statute violated the Indiana Constitution, which bars special legislation and says laws should be uniform throughout the state.

Access the entire story here. See the ILB entry immediately below for more on yesterday's ruling.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 3, 2005 05:41 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions