Sunday, November 18, 2012
Ind. Courts - Should a highly respected Indiana trial judge, who was a star athlete for Ball State in the late 1970s, preside over a case involving the school?
The question is presented in this fascinating opinion piece in today's Muncie Star Press, by Larry Riley, who teaches English at Ball State University. Here are some quotes:
Last week saw the first official court hearing in Ball State University v. David and Jane Hiatt et al, the et al including directors of a trust and Chris Hiatt, operator of Hiatt Printing.ILB: Here is the website of the law firm Sever Storey, identified as eminent domain attorneys representing landowners. Mr. Sever is located in Carmel.
Hiatt Printing’s main office is on Wheeling north of Centennial, but a satellite office sits just off BSU’s campus on McKinley, exactly where the university envisions a $26 million hotel and immersive learning program for several majors related to travel, hospitality and food services among others.
Hiatt and family have declined to sell their property for $400,000, the last price Ball State offered. * * *
Given no sales agreement, university trustees authorized use of eminent domain condemnation through court, a controversial power government has to take property when needed to fulfill necessary government functions.
The process includes a court appointing a pair of appraisers to come up with a fair-market value for the property, which the government must pay. * * *
In large part, the hearing was for Circuit Court 1 Judge Marianne Vorhees to disclose to both sides — though nothing new to local counsel, such as Ball State’s attorneys Jim Williams and Scott Shockley of Defer-Voran — her connections to the university.
Vorhees said she consulted with Indiana’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications, who agreed that her ties to Ball State are not of the nature or to the degree that would demand she recuse herself and step away from the case.
Still, her connections would “require disclosure,” in her words, to give either party the option of asking for a change of judge.
Voorhees was a softball-playing athlete for Ball State — left fielder, I believe. The daughter of a legendary local coach, Francis Lafferty — McCulloch Park’s baseball field is named for him — she was always involved in sports.
Vorhees was in Ball State’s first class of women student-athletes to receive scholarships at Ball State and twice her teams won college state championships.
She graduated in 1980.
She’s since been heavily involved in the Cardinal Varsity Club, a sports booster group at Ball State, serving once as president and she said she’s currently on the board.
She also served on the search committee that this year recommended the hiring, since done, of current athletic director Bill Scholl, from Notre Dame, where Vorhees went to law school, finishing in 1983. * * *
As plaintiffs, Ball State filed in Vorhee’s court, seemingly happy with her presiding. The defendants told the court they’d like to consider their options for several days.
The judge made plain that she’d certainly like to stay on the case, a case, she said, “with some interesting legal issues. Most attorneys around here,” she said to Hiatt’s Indianapolis lawyers, “will tell you I love interesting legal cases.” * * *
“There is no case law on this,” Defense counsel Phil Severs told me after the hearing. So what gets decided will establish precedent.
One might presume that whoever loses at the trial court level would appeal the decision, and while Ball State wants the case on a fast track, you’d have to think a final resolution will take years.
The issue Hiatt’s side wants to address is “whether the taking is legitimate or not, which is central to the case,” Sever told the court. The defendants feel building and operating a hotel isn’t part of the educational mission of the school.
Ball State disagrees.
Arguments will focus on state law written after a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed governments to take private property from one owner and convey it to another owner if subsequent development benefits the community.
In response, several states, including Indiana, wrote new laws to prevent government confiscation for non-government use. Ball State vs. Hiatt appears to be the first to test exactly what Indiana’s law means.
The 2005 SCOTUS decision mentioned in the story is of course Kelo v. City of New London (6/23/05) (ILB entry here).
This ILB entry from January 8, 2006 includes a link to the post-Kelo bill that ultimately became law in Indiana.
Here is a full list of the many earlier ILB entries mentioning Kelo.
Finally, ILB readers will recall that Hon. Marianne L. Vorhees, Delaware Circuit Court 1, was a strong contender this fall for the Supreme Court vacancy to which now-Justice Loretta Rush was ultimately named.
Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 18, 2012 10:43 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts