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Campbell v. George

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 30, 2017

Kevin Campbell, Appellant-Plaintiff,
v.
Irenea George, Appellee-Defendant

         Appeal from the Johnson Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 41D01-1604-SC-1070 The Honorable Kevin M. Barton, Judge, The Honorable Douglas B. Cummins, Magistrate Judge

          Appellant Pro Se Kevin Campbell Marietta, Georgia

          MATHIAS, JUDGE.

         [¶1] Kevin Campbell ("Campbell") brought a small claims action in Johnson Superior Court for the return of a dog, "Snickers, " against Irenea George ("George"). The Johnson County magistrate entered an order giving Snickers to George. That order was never signed or otherwise adopted by a judge. Without a final appealable order, we remand.

         Facts and Procedural Posture

         [¶2] On April 5, 2016, Campbell filed a notice of claim in Johnson Superior Court, seeking Snickers's return from George's possession and $6, 000 in damages, the jurisdictional limit for small claims actions. On June 9, 2016, Campbell and George both appeared in person before the Johnson County magistrate and pleaded their cases. The magistrate took the matter under advisement and, later the same day, issued an order finding Snickers belonged to George and denying Campbell's claim. That order was never signed or otherwise adopted by a judge. Campbell moved to correct error and to set aside the judgment for fraud; the magistrate denied both motions, again by orders signed only by him.

         [¶3] Campbell filed notice of appeal on July 25, 2016. Campbell then filed a "Motion For Relief By Law Due To Magistrate's Lack Of Judicial Mandate" in Johnson Superior Court on August 15, 2016. Because the completion of the clerk's record was noted in the chronological case summary on August 16, 2016, the superior court judge denied the motion for lack of jurisdiction under Indiana Appellate Rule 8 on August 22, 2016. On appeal, Campbell raises a welter of issues, but we find one dispositive: whether the magistrate's order was a final appealable order. Concluding that it was not, we remand.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶4] The Johnson circuit and superior courts are authorized to employ one full-time magistrate. Ind. Code § 33-33-41-2(a). A magistrate's power is limited by statute. Tongate v. State, 954 N.E.2d 494, 495 (Ind.Ct.App. 2011), trans. denied.

         A magistrate may . . .

(14) Enter a final order, conduct a sentencing hearing, and impose a sentence on a person convicted of a criminal offense as described in section 9 of this chapter.
(15) Enter a final order or judgment in any proceeding involving matters specified in [Indiana Code §] 33-29-2-4 (jurisdiction of small claims docket) . . . .

I.C. § 33-23-5-5 (emphasis added). However,

[e]xcept as provided under sections 5(14) and 9(b) of this chapter, a ...

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