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Heber v. Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 22, 2016

David Heber, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and City of Indianapolis Office of Corporation Counsel, Appellees-Defendants.

         Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable James A. Joven, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49D13-1601-PL-158

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Nathaniel J. Heber Atlanta, Georgia.

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEES Pamela G. Schneeman Office of Corporation Counsel Indianapolis, Indiana.

          Barnes, Judge.

         Case Summary

         [1] David Heber appeals the trial court's dismissal of his complaint against the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ("IMPD") and the Office of Corporation Counsel of the City of Indianapolis ("OCC") (collectively "the Appellees"). We reverse and remand.

         Issue

         [2] The sole restated issue is whether the trial court properly concluded that the Appellees could not be sued under the Indiana Access to Public Records Act ("APRA").

         Facts

         [3] The facts as alleged in Heber's complaint are that, on May 16, 2015, Heber and another individual were robbed at gunpoint in Indianapolis. IMPD investigated the case, which resulted in charges being filed against an individual six days later. Heber requested and received from IMPD a copy of the Incident Report for the robbery generated on May 16, 2015.

         [4] On June 26, 2015, Heber filed a request with IMPD and the OCC for records related to the robbery aside from the initial Incident Report, pursuant to the APRA. The OCC's public access counselor, Samantha DeWester, denied this request, stating that Heber had failed to specify which records he was seeking with reasonable particularity. On July 15, 2015, Heber filed a second, more detailed request for records related to the robbery. DeWester denied this second request, again on the basis that it lacked reasonable particularity.

         [5] On August 2, 2015, Heber filed a complaint with the Indiana Public Access Counselor, Luke Britt, with respect to the Appellees' failure to provide him with the requested records. On September 15, 2015, Britt filed an advisory opinion stating his belief that the Appellees violated the APRA by not timely responding to the June 26, 2015 records request and that they were not justified in denying either request on the basis of an alleged lack of reasonable particularity.[1] After issuance of this advisory opinion, the Appellees did not provide the requested records to Heber.

         [6] On December 26, 2015, Heber filed a complaint in the trial court against the Appellees, seeking release of the requested records, along with an award of reasonable costs, attorney fees, and civil penalties. On January 19, 2016, the Appellees filed a motion to dismiss Heber's complaint. The motion alleged solely that the Appellees were not entities that could be sued under the APRA. The trial court granted the motion to dismiss. Heber now appeals.

         Analysis

         [7] The Appellees' motion to dismiss alleged that Heber's complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted, pursuant to Indiana Trial Rule 12(B)(6). We review a trial court's grant of such a motion de novo. Lockhart v. State, 38 N.E.3d 215, 217 (Ind.Ct.App. 2015). We accept as true the facts alleged in a complaint when assessing a ruling on a motion to dismiss, considering the pleadings in a light most favorable to the plaintiff and drawing every reasonable inference in favor of the plaintiff. Id. We will affirm dismissal of a ...


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