A Madison property owner’s appeal of an order granting demolition has been denied at the Fifth District Appellate Court.
Kathleen Stipe, owner of a home located at 1620 3rd St., had appealed Madison County Circuit Judge Barbara Crowder’s March 2013 decision in favor of the City of Madison and its building inspector James Broadway.
The City had cited the property as “an immediate hazard” in June 2012.
The controversy went to a bench trial in December 2012, with Stipe arguing that the City had begun demolition of her property before obtaining court authority. She sought denial of that authority, damages in an amount to bring the house back to habitable status and punitive damages for “extreme emotional distress.”
In her ruling,Crowder found the property to be “hazardous, dangerous, unsafe and uninhabitable. The property is beyond reasonable repair and a realistic plan for remediation was not and, frankly, cannot be produced."
Stipe appealed Crowder’s decision and filed a motion to stay enforcement of demolition pending appeal, which was granted.
In a Rule 23 order posted Jan. 2, the Court held that Stipe failed to provide a transcript of the pertinent evidence she sought reviewed and that it must therefore “presume that the trial court acted and ruled properly.”
Justice James Wexstten, writing for a three-member panel, stated, “This deficiency is fatal to Stipe's appeal.”
On appeal, Stipe made four arguments: The City failed to provide notice of demolition to all owners of record; the City's actions constituted wrongful demolition; the circuit court erred in authorizing the demolition; and she was entitled to damages for a wrongful and premature demolition.
“Here, the plaintiff as appellant had the burden of providing this court with a transcript of the trial, or an appropriate alternative,” Wexstten wrote. “She failed to meet that burden; neither a transcript nor an alternative has been provided. Where the appellant fails to include in the record on appeal some component that is key to his or her argument, the absence of that component supports a decision adverse to the appellant on that issue.
“Given the slim record on appeal, this court has no way of knowing exactly what evidence was adduced at the trial, and therefore cannot truly evaluate the circuit court's findings. In order to conduct a thoroughgoing review of the judgment in this case, and truly evaluate the court's findings, this court would need to examine a transcript of the trial, or a bystander's report or an agreed statement of facts. Absent a transcript or a suitable substitute, this court must presume that the circuit court acted and ruled correctly, and that its findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence.
“Given the state of the record on appeal, this court has no permissible choice except to affirm the judgment of the circuit court.”