« Ind. Courts - Should lawmakers be required to comply with the state's public records act? | Main | Ind. Courts - The appellate courts will make briefs filed in non-confidential appeals available online next month »

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In Thomas Simstad v. Gerald Scheub (ND Ind., Van Bokkelen), a 17-page opinion, Chief Judge Wood writes:

Tom and Marla Simstad are longtime developers in Lake County, Indiana. In late 2004, the Simstads began the process of seeking approval from the Lake County Plan Commission for a proposed subdivision project called Deer Ridge South. In late 2006, the Commission approved the plans for the project. But this did not happen quickly enough to satisfy the Simstads. They believed that approval was delayed, at great cost to themselves, because of their support in 1996 for commission member Gerald Scheub’s opponent in the County Commissioner primary race. They accordingly sued several members of the Commission and Lake County, alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and various Indiana laws.

The case went to trial before a jury, but the district court eliminated some of the Simstads’ claims during the trial. The remainder of their theories went to the jury, which found for the defendants. The Simstads have raised a number of points on appeal, but we conclude that the district court properly disposed of each aspect of the case and thus affirm its judgment. * * *

Eight years may sound like a long time to hold a grudge, but the Simstads believe that this is exactly what Scheub did. Their lawsuit also followed a slow track. They initially filed it in the district court on November 15, 2007; the defendants filed a timely answer. On April 9, 2008, the Simstads filed an amended complaint, along with a number of discovery requests. The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the amend ed complaint and requested that the court stay discovery. It did so pending resolution of the motion to dismiss.

There the case sat until September 30, 2010, when the district court addressed the defendants’ motion to dismiss. It issued an order dismissing the RICO claims, but denying defendants’ motion with respect to the First Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment, and state-law claims. At that point, defendants’ answer to the amended complaint was due on October 14, 2010, according to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(a)(4)(A). That date came and went with no new answer. * * *

At long last, in December 2014 the case went to trial. * * *

We are distressed that it took this case so long to be resolved. Some of the problems might have been avoided with better control over the schedule, and some might have been resolved in a way that did not prompt an appeal. But in the final analysis, we find no error in the district court’s procedural rulings or its Rule 50 decisions. We therefore AFFIRM its judgment.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 17, 2016 05:28 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions