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Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Ind. Decisions - Still more on Fort Wayne Airport decision

On August 2, 2005 the Indiana Supreme Court posted its decision in SMDfund, Inc., et al v. Fort Wayne-Allen Co. Airport Authority, et al. (See ILB entries from: 8/2/05, 8/3/05, 8/4/05, and 8/5/05.)

According to the ILB report at the time:

Today's 9-page ruling, by Justice Boehm, with the other four justices concurring, begins with the somewhat disappointing:
The plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the statute creating the Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority. The Authority was created in 1985 pursuant to a statute the plaintiffs now contend violates the prohibition in the Indiana Constitution against special legislation. We hold that laches bars this claim.
At page 8 Boehm writes:
In short, laches bars the plaintiffs’ claim. Because we hold that the plaintiffs’ claim is barred by laches, we need not address the statute of limitations issue which was the basis of the trial court’s ruling reaching the same result. We affirm the trial court’s entry of summary judg-ment for the defendants.
Yesterday the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette published an opinion piece from Joe Tocci, "a Fort Wayne resident and chairman of the SMDfund, which represents Smith Field supporters." Some quotes:
Like any other legal complaint, courts can’t proceed on a constitutional matter except when brought in a specific case. SMDfund v. Fort Wayne-Allen County Airport Authority, et al., was such a case. At the lawsuit’s filing, the 2003 Supreme Court’s Kimsey ruling was a watershed that could halt the General Assembly’s addiction to making special laws beneficial to local elites and otherwise confine them to making uniform policy beneficial to all of us. * * *

Each time an Indiana court excused bracketed populations, its decision bolstered legal precedent and emboldened Indiana’s legislators to do it again until it is now routine. The remarkable thing is that for more than 20 years, Indiana courts have found excuses for allowing this transparent device to disguise the constitutional violation.

The Kimsey ruling suddenly changed everything. When the Indiana Supreme Court defined explicitly, for the first time, the only legal exception to our Constitution’s prohibition, the justices seemed to be signaling they’d finally had enough. Thirty-one days after Kimsey, SMDfund asked the court to try the high court’s new criteria against the airport authority’s circumstance.

The airport authority’s claim that we waited 17 years is nonsense. The high court’s reliance on it is stunning. When the Supreme Court upheld dismissal of SMDfund, the justices rescinded the Kimsey notice, and by doing so unanimously, the justices may have emboldened the legislature to resume the log rolling with the highest impunity since 1850.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 7, 2005 08:19 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions