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Monday, July 11, 2011

Ind. Decisions - One Indiana decision today from 7th Circuit

In Bishop Harvey, Jr. v. Town of Merrillville (ND Ind., Van Bokkelen), a 14-page opinion, Judge Tinder begins:

Henry David Thoreau found solace when he lived near Walden Pond. Homeowners perhaps seeking the same from a small pond in the Innsbrook subdivision in Merrillville, Indiana, claim to have found anything but. They allege that the retention pond their lots abut is a haven not for tranquility but for algae and mosquitoes, a source of flooding and frustration rather than inspiration and insight. They feared that a proposed expansion of the subdivision would only exacerbate their problems with the pond, and they attempted to voice their concerns with Merrillville town officials during and after the subdivision approval process.

The disgruntled homeowners, most of whom are African American, claim that Merrillville refused to listen to them, with a town council member (also African American) allegedly turning his back to them on one occasion and slinging a racial epithet at them on another.

They also contend that Merrillville violated their Fourteenth Amendment equal protection rights by being more responsive to similar complaints lodged by white residents of another subdivision years later.

Twenty-one of the aggrieved Innsbrook residents obtained counsel and sought redress for the alleged equal protection violations against the Town of Merrillville (“Town”), sixteen individuals who worked for the Town in various capacities (collectively the “Town Defendants”), and the Town’s acting engineer (“Warmelink”) by filing suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the Northern District of Indiana. The Innsbrook residents also raised several state law claims against these and a collection of other defendants, a total of thirty-one in all. The Town and Town Defendants responded to the residents’ sprawling scattergun complaint by filing a counterclaim seeking a declaration that the Town was not obligated to maintain the retention pond.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 11, 2011 12:48 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions