Parks v. Madison County

Decision Date31 December 2002
Docket NumberNo. 77A04-0106-CV-257.,77A04-0106-CV-257.
Citation783 N.E.2d 711
PartiesTimothy PARKS, Appellant-Plaintiff, v. MADISON COUNTY, et al., Appellees-Defendants.
CourtIndiana Appellate Court

Timothy Parks, Carlisle, IN, Appellant Pro Se.

Steve Carter, Attorney General of Indiana, Robin Hodapp-Gillman, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, IN, Donald B. Kite, Sr., Schultz & Pogue, LLP, Carmel, IN, Attorneys for Appellee.

OPINION

FRIEDLANDER, Judge.

Timothy Parks, pro se, appeals the denial of his motion to correct error, which challenged the grant of a motion to dismiss in his civil rights action against Madison County, Indiana, Thomas Newman, Scott Mellinger, Wayne Schaffter, Patrick Cunningham, Jr., and David Puckett. Parks presents the following consolidated, restated issues for review:

1. Did the trial court err in determining that Parks's claims were barred by the statute of limitations?

2. Is Ind.Code Ann. § 35-50-6-5(a)(4) constitutional? 3. Did the trial court err in finding that Parks's civil claims were frivolous?

4. Did the trial court err in failing to appoint counsel to represent Parks?

We affirm.

This case comes before us by way of the granting of a motion to dismiss, which was filed pursuant to Ind. Trial Rule 12(B)(6). In such cases, we are bound to accept as true the facts set forth in the plaintiff's complaint. Vranicar v. Board of Comm'rs of Brown County, 730 N.E.2d 752 (Ind.Ct. App.2000). We detail those facts below, as well as additional uncontested background facts. On December 20, 1989, Parks was placed on probation after having been convicted of burglary in Madison County, Indiana. On November 24, 1993, a warrant was issued for Parks's arrest alleging that Parks had violated his probation. That warrant was served on Parks on March 20, 1995 while Parks was living in Florida. It was subsequently determined that Parks had violated the conditions of probation, and therefore his probation was revoked.

On December 7, 2000, Parks filed a complaint relating to events that allegedly occurred between November 1993 and March 1995 in connection with the aforementioned revocation proceeding. Parks named as defendants Judge Thomas Newman of the Madison Superior Court, Madison County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney David Puckett, Madison County, Indiana, former Madison County Sheriff Scott Mellinger, Madison County Probation Officer Wayne Schaffter, and attorney Patrick Cunningham. In the complaint, Parks alleged that on November 22, 1993, Deputy Prosecutor Puckett and Judge Newman, although lacking probable cause, conspired to issue a warrant for Parks's arrest on grounds that he had failed to appear as ordered in court. The warrant was served in Florida and Parks was extradited to Indiana. Parks alleged that former sheriff Mellinger knew and concealed the fact that the extradition was improper. Parks further alleged that Judge Newman appointed attorney Patrick Cunningham to represent him, but that Cunningham failed to do so adequately. Finally, he alleged that Puckett and Schaffter were aware that the arrest warrant, the charge of failure to appear, and the extradition were all improper and convinced Cunningham to conceal his knowledge of those improprieties as well.

We note here that this is not the first action initiated by Parks concerning these and related matters. This court affirmed the revocation of Parks's probation in an unpublished memorandum decision. See Parks v. State, No. 48A04-9508-CR-293, 657 N.E.2d 207 (Ind.Ct.App. Nov. 20, 1995). Thereafter, Parks filed an action in federal court alleging 42 U.S.C. § 1983 violations. That action was based upon the same operative facts as the previous Indiana action. In it, Parks sought an order expunging the determination that he violated probation, as well as compensatory and punitive damages. Some of the claims asserted by Parks were resolved against him by way of summary judgment. The remaining claims were dismissed without prejudice when Parks "refused to remedy, despite specific guidance and direction from the court on how to" conform his complaint to the guidelines set out in the federal pleading rules. Appellant's Appendix at 96 (quoting Parks v. Lawler, Jr., et al., No. IP-95-1231-C (S.D.Ind. Oct. 1, 1997) (Parks I)). Still later, Parks filed another action in Sullivan Circuit Court, which was removed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. See Parks v. Madison County, et al., No. 00-0031-C-D/F (Ind.Ct.App. Sept. 28, 2000) (Parks II). According to the Parks II court, that action, which also advanced a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim, was "a mere shadow" of Parks I. In granting summary judgment for the defendants, the court held:

The foregoing demonstrates that Parks' claims accrued no later than upon the March 1995 Madison Circuit Court's order revoking his probation. He had two (2) years following such date in which to file suit pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. He did not do so....
Parks I was deficient with respect to certain claims and was botched by Parks' unwillingness to follow repeated instructions to plead his claims in a simple and proper fashion. This sequel offers nothing of substance, nothing of merit, which could support Parks' recovery. In a ruling on a summary judgment motion the court accepts as true the non-moving party's evidence, draws all legitimate inferences in favor of the non-moving party, and does not weigh the evidence of the credibility of witnesses. However, "it is gratuitous cruelty to parties and their witnesses to put them through the emotional ordeal of a trial when the outcome is foreordained" and in such cases summary judgment is appropriate. Mason v. Continental Illinois Nat'l Bank, 704 F.2d 361, 367 (7th Cir.1983).

Appellant's Appendix at 100-01 (quoting Parks v. Madison County, et al., No. 00-0031-C-D/F, slip op. at 7-8).

This brings us to the instant case. Parks filed this complaint in the Sullivan Superior Court on December 7, 2000. This also is a 42 U.S.C. § 1983 claim seeking injunctive relief and money damages based upon the previously described events, which occurred between November 24, 1993 and March 20, 1995. On April 11, 2001, Madison County, Mellinger, and Cunningham (hereinafter "the Madison County Defendants") filed an Ind. Trial Rule 12(B) motion to dismiss on grounds that the action was barred by the statute of limitations. On April 23, 2001, Newman and Puckett filed a motion to dismiss on grounds that they enjoyed absolute judicial and prosecutorial immunity, respectively. In both motions, the defendants requested a ruling that the lawsuit against them was frivolous. The trial court granted both motions on May 18, 2001, and dismissed both actions with prejudice. Moreover, the trial court in both instances ruled that Parks's lawsuit was frivolous. Parks filed a motion to correct errors challenging all aspects of those determinations.

We note as an initial matter that Parks's noncompliance with the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure subjects his appeal to dismissal on that basis. Rule 44(D) of the Indiana Rules of Appellate Procedure places a thirty-page limit on an appellant's brief. Park's appellant's brief is fifty-six pages long. According to App. R. 44(E), a brief may exceed the prescribed page limit if the party preparing the brief certifies that it does not exceed 14,000 words. We do not find such a certificate in Parks's appellate materials. Further, App. R. 44(D) sets a fifteen-page limit on a reply brief, again unless there is a certification that the reply brief does not exceed, in the case of a reply brief, 7,000 words. Parks's reply brief is twenty-three pages long, and we find no word-count certificate related to it.

We note also that the "facts" section of Parks's appellate brief is laced with argument and advocative prose (e.g., "defendants... continued to misrepresent facts, or kept Parks misinformed, to fraudulently conceal from him harm caused by wrongful confinement and kidnapping through fall of 1998"). Appellant's Brief at 3-4. The statement of facts is to be a narrative statement of facts, and is not to be argumentative. App. R. 46(A)(6); Curtis v. Clem, 689 N.E.2d 1261 (Ind.Ct.App. 1997). Thus, the "facts" section in Parks's brief does not comply with the requirements of App. R. 46.

Parks is by now a veteran pro se litigant, and we are left to conclude that he filed his brief in flagrant disregard of the Rules of Appellate Procedure. These deviations from the appellate rules warrant rebriefing or other sanctions. In re Termination of Parent-Child Relationship Between Children: T.C., C.F. and the Parents: P.C., B.T.D. and B.R.F., 630 N.E.2d 1368 (Ind.Ct.App.1994), trans. denied. Failure to follow the appellate rules can, in egregious situations, lead to dismissal of the appeal. Kirchoff v. Selby, 703 N.E.2d 644 (Ind.1998). We observe, however, that the record of proceedings in this case, as well as Parks's propensity for litigation, give cause to believe that if this matter were dismissed on procedural grounds, it would almost certainly be resurrected by Parks on some other basis and pressed again. See, e.g., Parks v. Madison County, et al., No. 30A05-0109-CV-399, 772 N.E.2d 1038 (Ind.Ct.App. July 12, 2002); Parks v. City of Anderson, et al., No. 77A01-0108-CV-289, 770 N.E.2d 423 (Ind. Ct.App. June 17, 2002). Therefore, in the interest of judicial economy, we will address Parks's claims on the merits.

1.

Parks presents several issues concerning the merits of his case. Through those issues, Parks contends that the trial court erred in granting the motion to dismiss filed by the Madison County Defendants. We do not address all of those issues, however, because we conclude that Parks's action was barred by the relevant statute of limitations.

Our well-settled standard of review in matters such as this is as follows:

A Trial Rule 12(B)(6) motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be
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