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United States v. Northern Indiana Public Services

    Brief Fact Summary. United States wishes to “take” land owned by the Northern Indiana Public Services Company. NIPSCO filed suit against the U.S.A, and the Dunes Council filed a motion to intervene in the case.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.  In order for someone to intervene as a right they must show four things:  (1) timely application; (2) an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action; (3) that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that interest; and (4) that the interest is not adequately represented by existing parties

    Facts. In 1978 the United States sent notice of condemnation on 36.95 acres of Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO)’s land. NIPSCO filed suit against the condemnation in 1978 as well. It wasn’t until 1981 that a hearing was requested for the case and a trial date was set for February 1982. Then in April of 1982 Save the Dunes Council filed a motion to intervene. The memorandum to support the motion was filed later in the same month. Subsequently in 1983 the two parties to the case agreed to a stipulated dismissal and a pre-trial hearing was conducted. At that hearing the Council filed memos and other documents. The United States has not responded to Council’s motion to intervene.

    Issue.  Whether the Council, who has no direct ownership to the land in question, has a right to intervene in a condemnation action.

    Held.  No. Here the court discusses all that is required for someone to intervene as a right. Those requirements are that they have a timely application; an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action; that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede his ability to protect that interest; and that the interest is not adequately represented by existing parties. Here the court finds that the Council waited to long to file its intervention motion. The Council should have filed the motion as soon as they knew about their interest to the case. However, the joint motion by NIPSCO and the United States to dismiss the action did not occur until a year later. So it is possible that the Council did not have reason to believe it should have intervened any sooner. The only property interest the Council can claim is an environmental one that has lasted for 30 years. However the court stated that the interest must be a significant interest not a mere continent interest in the property in order for intervention to be a right to the party. As to permissive intervention the court has full discretion to grant that. The court here does not find that there will be injustice by not allowing the Council to intervene.

    Discussion. The case has lasted for four years. Allowing Council to intervene would only prolong the case. The United States and NIPSCO have come to an agreement and the court chooses to honor that agreement.


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