Nikirk had ordered that the standard annexation trials for Area 1A and Area 1B would be delayed, until Bloomington’s related but separate litigation—over constitutional questions related to annexation waivers—is resolved.
In addition to the appeals process, the city of Bloomington has now started another procedure that could lead to faster scheduling of a standard annexation trial for the two areas. The idea is to take a step towards quick resolution of the related constitutional litigation—but just for Area 1A and Area 1B.
On Wednesday, Bloomington’s legal tactic was to file a motion to dismiss its own lawsuits for Area 1A and Area 1B, over the constitutional question of waivers.
Lawrence county circuit court photo of special judge for Bloomington annexation lawsuit Nathan Nikirk
Order issued on Sept. 5, 2023 by judge Nathan Nikirk
The special judge assigned to a Bloomington annexation case has ruled that a standard trial to which remonstrators are entitled will not go ahead in mid-November as originally scheduled.
That’s what remonstrators in Area 1A and Area 1B had requested—a delay on those proceedings, until some related litigation has been settled. The related litigation was initiated by the city of Bloomington, on constitutional grounds.
After hearing oral arguments for a little more than one hour on Friday morning, judge Nathan Nikirk told attorneys for annexation remonstrators, and for the city of Bloomington, that he’d take their arguments under advisement.
Then he told them he would issue a ruling next Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.
That means on Sept. 5, Nikirk will answer this question: Should the standard annexation trial for Area 1A and Area 1B be put off—until a constitutional question about the status of annexation waivers is resolved?
[Updated Sept. 5 at 3:01 p.m. Nikirk granted the request by remonstrators for a stay on the trial. Here’s a link: Nikirk’s order on the motion.]
They had asked the judge to grant them additional time for signature collection, under a state statute that provides certain emergency powers [IC 34-7-6-1]. The emergency in question is the COVID-19 pandemic.
A status conference with the judge and the parties to the lawsuit is set for March 3.
Video screen inside the Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center, showing visitors where proceedings are taking place for the day.
Charlotte Zietlow Justice Center at 7th Street and College Avenue.
Room 313 at the north end of the second floor hallway, where Friday’s proceeding was held.
At the end of a Friday hearing that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, special judge Nathan Nikirk did not issue a ruling in the case that remonstrators against Bloomington’s annexation have brought to the court.
Friday’s hearing involved the remonstrators in Area 1A and Area 1B, who collected signatures from more than 50 percent of land owners, which was enough to qualify for judicial review, but fell short of the 65 percent threshold that would have stopped annexation outright.
Area 1A is just west of Bloomington. Area 1B lies to the southwest.
Remonstrators in those two areas are asking that the judge grant them additional time for signature collection, under a state statute that provides certain emergency powers. [IC 34-7-6-1] The emergency in question is the COVID-19 pandemic.
Despite the fact that the judge didn’t issue a ruling on Friday, based on the clarification that Nikirk requested from both sides during the hearing, his eventual decision could depend on the interpretation of the word “proceeding” as used in the statute on emergency powers. Nikirk wanted both sides to lay out how they understand the concept of “proceeding” under that statute.
The statute refers to the emergency powers as applying to a “proceeding…pending before a court, a body, or an official, that exists under the constitution or laws of Indiana.”
At the end of the hearing, Nikirk asked both sides to prepare proposed orders on the question by Jan. 6, 2023.