LARRY G. JONES and SHARON F. JONES, Petitioners,
JEFFERSON COUNTY ASSESSOR, Respondent
LARRY G. JONES, PETITIONER, Pro se, Hanover, IN.
SHARON F. JONES, PETITIONER, Pro se, Hanover, IN.
ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT: GREGORY F. ZOELLER, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF INDIANA, THOMAS D. CAMERON, DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL, Indianapolis, IN.
Martha Blood Wentworth, Judge.
ORDER ON RESPONDENT'S MOTION TO DISMISS
This matter is currently before the Court to decide whether the failure of Larry and Sharon Jones to timely request and file the Indiana Board of Tax Review's administrative record warrants a dismissal of their original tax appeal. Given the particular facts of the case, the Court finds that their failure does not warrant a dismissal.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
On July 17, 2013, the Indiana Board issued a final determination regarding the Joneses' residential real property assessment for the 2008 and 2009 tax years. On August 28, 2013, the Joneses initiated an original tax appeal challenging that final determination.
The Assessor's attorney entered his appearance and filed an answer on October 2, 2013. Thereafter, the Court scheduled a telephonic case management conference for October 23, 2013. During that conference, the Court ordered, based on input from both parties, the following schedule for briefing the case on the merits: the Joneses were to file their initial brief by November 22; the Assessor was to file her response by December 23; and the Joneses' were to file their reply by January 6, 2014.
The next day, on October 24, 2013, the Joneses moved for a default judgment on the basis that the Assessor failed to file her answer within 30 days of the filing of their complaint. The Assessor filed a response opposing the motion on October 29, 2013. In an order dated November 20,
2013, the Court denied the Joneses' motion for default judgment, explaining that because the Assessor filed her answer before the Joneses filed their motion, the fact that the answer was late was of no consequence. In denying the motion, the Court also explained that its long-standing policy was that " cases should be decided on the[ir] merits and justice should not be defeated by [procedural] technicalities." (Order, Nov. 20, 2013 (citation omitted).) Consequently:
[a]lthough our procedural rules are extremely important, it must be kept in mind that they are merely a means for achieving the ultimate end of orderly and speedy justice. [The Court] must examine  technical rules closely when it appears that invoking them would defeat justice; otherwise we become slaves to the technicalities themselves and they acquire the position of being the ends instead of the means. This is e[s]pecially true in [this] case . . . where . . . no one [is prejudiced by] allowing the . . . [case to proceed.] Indeed, the Court's function is to serve the truth and to decide legal issues, not clear [its] dockets by utilization of unnecessarily narrow technical interpretations of the procedural rules.
(Order, Nov. 20, 2013 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).) The Court closed its order by reminding the parties that the previously ...