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Sharp v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 20, 2019

Clifton E. Sharp, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff, and Brianna Finney, Appellee-Claimant,

          Appeal from the Clark Circuit Court The Honorable J. Terrence Cody, Special Judge Trial Court Cause No. 10C02-1703-F2-9

          Attorney for Estate of Appellant Zachary F. Stewart Jeffersonville, Indiana

          Attorney for Appellee Brianna Finney Kevin Howard Willis Indianapolis, Indiana

          BAKER, JUDGE.

         [¶1] After Clifton Sharp died, litigation ensued between Brianna Finney, who had posted his bond while he was incarcerated, and his estate (the Estate) as to who is entitled to receive the bond money. The trial court found that the Estate has standing to make a claim for the money but that summary judgment should be entered in favor of Finney. Finding that the trial court properly concluded that the Estate has standing but improperly entered judgment beyond that issue because there are factual matters to be developed, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand for further proceedings.

         Facts

         [¶2] On March 29, 2017, Sharp was charged in Clark County with multiple felonies, including drug possession, maintaining a common nuisance, and drug trafficking. The Estate alleges that while in custody, Sharp negotiated the sale of one of his vehicles to the family of a fellow inmate in exchange for $19, 000. The money for the sale was received by Finney, who used part of it to post Sharp's $10, 000 bond[1] on January 29, 2018. In April 2018, after Sharp's release, Finney shot and killed him.[2] At no time was his bond ever revoked.

         [¶3] On April 20, 2018, Finney filed a motion in the criminal case seeking release of the bond money to her. At some point, the Estate also made a claim for the bond money and asked that it be released to the Estate.

         [¶4] On July 6, 2018, Finney filed a motion for summary judgment on the issue of the Estate's standing to claim the bond money. Included in her designated evidence was her own affidavit, which attested that she had posted the $10, 000 bond but did not assert that the money belonged to her when she posted it. Appellee's App. Vol. II p. 12. The Estate did not file a timely responsive pleading. On August 20, 2018, Finney filed a motion for judgment based on the Estate's failure to respond to the summary judgment motion and the Estate filed a response to the motion for judgment.

         [¶5] On August 30, 2018, the trial court denied Finney's summary judgment motion, finding that the Estate had standing to make a claim. Because the case now presented an issue of fact, the trial court scheduled an evidentiary hearing.

         [¶6] On October 15, 2018, the trial judge recused himself from the case. On January 4, 2019, the new judge held a hearing to familiarize himself with the proceedings and to determine the best way to move forward. The hearing consisted solely of a discussion between the attorneys and the judge; no evidence was presented. On January 28, 2019, the trial court entered an order, finding that the Estate had standing. It also went on to address the merits, finding that Finney was entitled to judgment as a matter of law based on the record before it. The Estate now appeals.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶1] Our standard of review on summary judgment is well established:

We review summary judgment de novo, applying the same standard as the trial court: "Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of . . . the non-moving parties, summary judgment is appropriate 'if the designated evidentiary matter shows that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.'" Williams v. Tharp, 914 N.E.2d 756, 761 (Ind. 2009) (quoting T.R. 56(C)). "A fact is 'material' if its resolution would affect the outcome of the case, and an issue is 'genuine' if a trier of fact is required to resolve the parties' ...

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