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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Ind. Decisions - More on the Supreme Court's probation fees decision

Updating this entry on Wednesday's Supreme Court decision in Clark County Council and Clark County Auditor v. Daniel F. Donahue, Cecile A. Blau, Vicki Carmichael, and Steven M. Fleece, the probation fees decision, Larry Thomas of the New Albany News and Tribune reports on what is next :

Clark County’s Circuit and Superior court judges are largely thankful that a nearly three-year lawsuit with the County Council has ended following an Indiana Supreme Court decision on Wednesday.

Justices ruled 5-0 that the County Council illegally exerted control over probation user fees in 2005 and 2006, and remanded the case to DuBois County Superior Judge Elaine Brown — who is special judge in the case — to determine how much money the council must repay the courts’ probation user fee funds.

Superior Court 3 Judge Steve Fleece said he would prefer to return to Brown with an agreement with the council that stipulates the amount of money to be repaid, rather than forcing Brown to sort through budgets and other documents before imposing a figure on the sides.

“This all requires that they’re going to act in good faith,” said Fleece, referring to council members.

Fleece added that the county’s 2004 budget — the last before the council began supplementing the county’s budget with probation funds — would likely be the starting point for such research.

“We’re pulling those budgets to take a look,” said Superior Court 2 Judge Cecile Blau.

Blau said judges are likely to consider the county’s current fiscal health if the council will participate in repayment negotiations.

“We want to ascertain what the condition of the council really is,” she said.

On Wednesday, County Council President David Abbott said he wants to resolve the repayment matter quickly and plans to call an executive session next week to discuss the Supreme Court’s ruling with other council members and the board’s lawyer.

Abbott was not a member of the council when the 2005 and 2006 budgets were approved.

The Supreme Court’s ruling grants the council the authority to appropriate probation user funds, but found that its use of the money during the previous two years was contrary to state law.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 29, 2007 09:16 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions