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Basic v. Amouri

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 19, 2016

Amir Basic and Gerard Arthus, Appellants-Plaintiffs,
v.
Numan A. Amouri, Mohamad H. Mohajeri, Mohammad Aslam Chaudhry, Adnan Khan, Imdad Zackariya, Mohammad Sirajuddin, Sarah Shaikh, Aijaz Shaikh, Ismail Al-Ani, Shaukat Chaudhry, Gulrukh Kareem, and Basman Salous et al., Appellees-Defendants

         Appeal from the St. Joseph Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 71D07-1505-PL-174 The Honorable Steven L. Hostetler, Judge

          Appellants Pro Se Amir Basic South Bend, Indiana, Gerard Arthus Mishawaka, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellees Robert J. Palmer May • Oberfell • Lorber Mishawaka, Indiana

          CRONE, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [1] Amir Basic and Gerard Arthus (collectively "Appellants") appeal the dismissal of their claims against the Imam of the Islamic Society of Michiana, Inc. ("ISM"), as well as members of the boards of directors and trustees, Numan A. Amouri, Mohamad H. Mohajeri, Mohammad Aslam Chaudhry, Adnan Khan, Imdad Zackariya, Mohammad Sirajuddin, Sarah Shaikh, Aijaz Shaikh, Ismail Al-Ani, Shaukat Chaudhry, Gulrukh Kareem, and Basman Salous (collectively "Appellees"), stemming from Basic's removal from the ISM board of directors. As best we can discern, Appellants challenge the trial court's findings that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction and that Appellants lacked standing as well as its decision to quash certain subpoenas. Appellees request damages, including appellate attorney's fees, pursuant to Indiana Appellate Rule 66(E). Finding that Appellants have violated numerous provisions of Appellate Rule 46, including the failure to present cogent argument, we conclude that they have waived all issues for appeal. And finding that Appellants acted in procedural bad faith, we grant Appellees request for damages. Therefore, we affirm and remand for a determination of these damages.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [2] In 2015, Basic was a member of the ISM board of directors ("Board"). On April 10, 2015, the other Board members and all members of the board of trustees ("Trustees") sent Basic a letter informing him that he was being temporarily suspended from the Board. The letter specified certain actions by Basic that had led to his suspension: (1) unauthorized removal of certain official documents, refusal to return those documents on demand, use of the documents to coerce the Board to negotiate certain demands, and distribution of the documents to Arthus, who improperly posted them online; (2) frustration and impairment of ISM's goals and mission by disrupting Board meetings, using threatening and abusive language, intimidating Board members, illegally restricting access to the Masjid (meeting room) and community hall, thereby causing anxiety and hardship to ISM community members; (3) unauthorized modification of the office by removing a window; and (4) deliberate destruction of the toilet in the Masjid restroom. Appellants' App. at 52-53. The letter concluded that Basic's actions amounted to a "failure to adhere to the Islamic teachings and values of compassion and respect towards authority and community members … [and a] failure to adhere to [his] responsibilities and obligations as a Board Member to maintain harmony among the community." Id. at 52.

         [3] At a subsequent meeting of the entire ISM membership community, ISM members voted via secret written ballot 121-2 in favor of permanently removing Basic from the Board, with Basic and Arthus being the only negative votes. This was followed by a hand vote, which was unanimous in favor of Basic's removal from the Board.

         [4] ISM records show that Arthus was never an active, dues-paying member of ISM. Basic was not included in the treasurer's list of ISM members and acknowledged that even though he had been in the ISM community since 1997, he was not officially a voting member of the community.

         [5] In May 2015, Appellants filed a sixteen-count complaint against Appellees essentially claiming that Basic was wrongfully suspended from the Board and that Appellees had violated state and federal statutes governing nonprofit religious organizations. They sought a temporary restraining order vacating the suspension, reinstating Basic to the Board, and granting him access to certain official records of ISM. They also moved for a preliminary injunction, seeking to enjoin Appellees from interfering with Basic's duties as a Board member and from denying him access to certain ISM records. He asked the trial court to consider the grounds for his removal from the Board.

         [6] The trial court denied the motion for temporary restraining order and granted Appellants leave to amend the complaint. In the amended complaint, Appellants asked the court to order Appellees to give them access to its membership lists, remove all members from the Board and Trustees, appoint a temporary trustee to manage ISM, and order formal elections. Appellants sought $5, 200, 000 in damages.

         [7] In June 2015, the trial court issued an order denying Appellants' motion for preliminary injunction, which provided in part,

ISM serves as an organization of Islamic believers in a several county area in Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan. [ISM President] Dr. Salous testified that it is a small organization where the worshippers know each other. The members meet together quite frequently for education, prayer and meals. Dr. Salous testified that some of the members have become afraid of Mr. Basic. The board of directors has a responsibility to maintain cooperation and unity. To scrutinize the decision of the board and trustees, and later the entire congregation, that Mr. Basic was interfering with the spirit of unity and cooperation would require far too much intrusion into the "polity" of this religious organization.

         Appellees' App. at 11. The trial court expressed its reservations as to whether it had subject matter jurisdiction over the case but did not ...


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