Change of judge in Bloomington’s eminent domain lawsuit

Another preliminary ruling was issued on Monday in the eminent domain lawsuit the City of Bloomington is pursuing to acquire more land for a replacement parking structure on 4th Street.

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Juan Carlos Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the target of a City of Bloomington eminent domain action, addresses Bloomington’s plan commission on July 8, 2019. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

From this point forward, Monroe County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Cure won’t be the judge in the case—because she granted the motion from landowner Juan Carlos Carrasquel for a change of venue.

Carrasquel, whose building at 222 S. Walnut is the focus of the city’s acquisition efforts, is represented by attorney Eric Rochford, with Cohen & Malad out of Indianapolis.

The motion for a change of venue—technically a change that is “taken from the judge” not the county of jurisdiction—was made under Indiana Trial Court Rule 76(B).  Under the court rule, the motion for changing the judge doesn’t require that an argument be made or a reason given. The motion can be be made “without specifically stating the ground therefor by a party or his attorney.”

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The view looking north along Walnut Street at 3rd Street. The 222 S. Walnut building, subject of the city of Bloomington’s eminent domain acquisition effort is in the foreground. The now closed parking structure stands north of it. (Dave Askins/Beacon)

A party can change the judge through such a motion just once.

Who will now serve as the judge in the case?

Based on the trial court rules cited in Judge Cure’s order, it will need to be someone who’s eligible to serve according to the definition in Rule 79(J): “Any regular judge of a Circuit, Superior, or Probate Court, a senior judge, or a person serving as a full-time judicial officer in a court of record, including a person who has been a member of a panel for selection, is eligible for appointment by a trial court as a special judge…”

If Carrasquel and the City of Bloomington can agree on some eligible judge within a week of Cure’s order getting filed, and they agree to serve, then that person will be the judge in the city’s eminent domain case. The two parties could also decide to have a judge assigned to the case under a local rule.

This week’s ruling follows two other preliminary rulings issued last week.

One ruling extended the time for Carrasquel to file objections to the city’s effort to acquire the land from him through eminent domain. The court gave Carrasquel until Aug. 12 to file objections. Five such objections were filed on July 15.

In a separate order issued last week, Cure ruled that the city of Bloomington had to respond to the landowner’s questions and requests for documents by Aug. 5.

Whether the plan commission has legal authority to act on the city’s parking garage site plan, without the consent of all landowners, will likely again be a topic on Aug. 12, when the plan commission next meets. The legal question of consent was raised at the plan commission’s first meeting about the parking garage site plan on July 8.

Based on documents provided by the city in response to a records request from The Beacon, the city offered Carrasquel $587,500 for the building. Carrasquel stated publicly, at the plan commission’s July 8 meeting, that he’s not interested in selling the building to the city

Court filings in the case can be retrieved from the state’s online system using the case number: 53C01-1906-PL-001293.