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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Two today from the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court granted transfer in the following case on August 16th. See this April 1, 2013 post for background, quoting a LCJ story: "The COA has upheld a ruling against Clark County, which was ordered to pay $865,000 for property taken by eminent domain for an airport expansion project."

Today, in Clark County Board of Aviation Commissioners, Board of Commissioners of Clark County, Indiana v. Dennis Dreyer and Margo Dreyer, as Co-Personal Reps. of the Estate of Margaret A. Dreyer, a 2-page, 5-0 opinion, Chief Justice Dickson writes:

We grant transfer in an effort to dispel confusion resulting from inartful language in one of our previous opinions. * * *

In its appellate challenge to the trial court judgment, the Board argued that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the property owner failed to timely file exceptions to the report filed by the court-appointed appraisers. This argument was predicated on language we included in State v. Universal Outdoor, Inc., stating: "the failure to file exceptions within the articulated time frame deprives the trial court of jurisdiction to hear the issue of damages." 880 N.E.2d 1188, 1190 (Ind. 2008).

In rejecting the Board's argument in the present case, the Court of Appeals concluded that this quoted passage from Universal Outdoor "is misleading," and explained: "To be sure if statutory procedures are not followed, the trial court may not be permitted to hear the issue of damages; however, this is not because the trial court lost jurisdiction, but rather, because legal error was committed." Dreyer, 986 N.E.2d at 291. The Court of Appeals is correct. Instead of declaring that the trial court "lacked subject matter jurisdiction," our opinion in Universal Outdoor should have expressed that the untimely filing of exemptions operated to preclude or foreclose the property owner from challenging the filed report. This was not a matter of subject matter jurisdiction.

The opinion of the Court of Appeals is summarily affirmed.

In Andrew McWhorter v. State of Indiana, a 9-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:
Andrew McWhorter appealed the denial of his petition for post-conviction relief arguing trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance for failing to object to a flawed voluntary manslaughter jury instruction. On review the Court of Appeals reversed the judgment of the post-conviction court and remanded this cause for retrial on reckless homicide only. On transfer, we also reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court but conclude that on remand there is no prohibition for retrial on either voluntary manslaughter or reckless homicide. * * *

We reverse the judgment of the post-conviction court, vacate McWhorter’s conviction for voluntary manslaughter, and remand this cause for retrial. However, neither the prohibition of double jeopardy nor the doctrine of collateral estoppel preclude retrial for reckless homicide or voluntary manslaughter.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 12, 2013 10:58 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions