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Friday, April 13, 2012

Courts - "A Cook County judge has banned reporters from tweeting inside his courtroom during the high-profile trial of a man accused of murdering three family members of singer and actress Jennifer Hudson"

From Ameet Sachdev's Chicago Law column in the Chicago Tribune. A few quotes from the long column:

Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court announced that it will experiment with allowing news cameras to broadcast trials in the state's circuit courts for the first time. It was a landmark decision, not just for the media but also for the public. Citizens would have real-time access to trials that they previously only could learn about on the television news or in the newspaper.

Until cameras are allowed in Cook County courtrooms, however, technologies like the microblogging site Twitter provide one of the few options for timely information about trials.

But Judge Charles Burns does not want journalists incessantly tapping on their smartphones during William Balfour's trial. He's afraid they will distract the jurors and disrupt the proceedings.

The Balfour case poses an age-old dilemma: How should a court balance the public's right to know with the right of all parties (both the prosecution and defense in a criminal matter) to a fair trial?

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Courts in general

Courts - "Cook County judge (who is up for retention this fall) pleads ‘not guilty’ in courthouse incident "

Lisa Donovan has the story in the Chicago Sun Times. Some quotes:

Cook County Judge Cynthia Brim found herself on the other side of the bench Friday as she stood before a judge and pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor battery charge lodged after she shoved a deputy at a downtown Chicago courthouse last month. * * *

On March 9, Brim was arrested at the Daley Center court complex after throwing a set of keys and shoving a Cook County sheriff’s deputy at a security checkpoint in the courthouse. She was briefly locked up in a holding cell in the courthouse basement before being released on her own recognizance.

A day earlier — on March 8 — Brim was seen acting erratically on the bench as she presided over traffic cases in the county’s Markham courthouse. She was hearing traffic cases on tickets written by South Holland, that town’s police chief confirmed. * * *

Several days after her courtroom outburst and arrest, Brim was removed from the bench indefinitely by a panel of judges who preside over everything from the civil to the criminal divisions of the local court system.

According to the order the judges’ panel issued: “There is reasonable cause to believe that a medical examination may reveal that Judge Brim presently is unable to perform her judicial duties, which could result in serious injury to the public or impede the orderly administration of justice.”

The judge’s unrestricted access to court facilities has been revoked.

It’s unclear whether she’ll continue collecting her $175,000-a-year paycheck.

Brim, who is up for retention on the November ballot, became a judge in 1994. She was re-elected in 2000 and 2006, though she wasn’t recommended by a majority of area bar associations either time.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Courts in general

Ind. Gov 't. - "Daniels today named Mike Alley as the new commissioner of the Indiana Department of Revenue and Mike Ashley as the new chief financial officer of the department"

Well, that can be confusing if you don't read it slowly. From the news release:

Alley served as president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank of Central Indiana in Indianapolis from 1989 through 2002. He is currently chairman and owner of Patriot Investments, LLC, a company he founded in 2002. In 2009 he was named interim chairman and CEO of Integra Bank Corporation in Evansville, a position he held until 2011. He is the current president of the board of trustees of Indiana State University. Alley serves on a number of non-profit boards including the Indiana State University Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, the Crossroads of America Council and the United Way of Central Indiana. He earned his accounting degree from Indiana State in 1978.

Ashley has more than three decades of experience in information technology and finance, including various chief financial officer roles. He was the deputy director and chief financial officer for Indiana Department of Child Services during the time DCS moved the responsibility for child welfare financing from the counties to the state. Before joining DCS, he was director of corporate finance and investment banking at Eli Lilly from 1998-2006. He previously worked for Eli Lilly Japan KK as director of administration and strategy and as the director of finance operations and was controller at Physio Control Corp, a Lilly Medical Devices division in Seattle. In all, he was at Eli Lilly for over 29 years in various financial leadership positions. He earned his bachelor’s degree and MBA from UCLA.

Alley will replace current commissioner John Eckart, who tendered his resignation last week but remains with the department to assist with the transition. Alley and Ashley will begin their new duties in early May.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Gov't. - More on: Unslated judicial candidates file lawsuit against Marion County election boards

Updating yesterday's ILB entry, here now are the complaint and the request for preliminary injunction, both filed April 12 in Marion Circuit Court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Courts - Determination and persistence evident in one judge's history

Last week I attended the afternoon session of the Indiana Law Review Symposium, "Reflecting on Forty Years of Merit Selection," particularly to watch the final panel, "Should Indiana Merit Selection be Trumpted, Tweaked, or Trashed? - The Governors' Counsels."

Sitting on the panel were:

Each of these Governors' counsels had played the central role in their governor's selections of trial judges, Court of Appeals judges, and Supreme Court justices.

As moderator, the Honorable Tim Oakes, Marion County Superior Court, posed the opening question to Judge Magnus-Stinson, noting that she had by far the most experience on both sides of the selection process, and in serving in both elected and appointed judgeships. He asked her to please relate her background.

With Judge Magnus-Stinson's permission, I am reproducing her answer here:

From 1983 until 1990, I worked as an associate for the law firm of Lewis, Bowman, St. Clair and Wagner (now Lewis Wagner). I was a civil litigator.

From 1991 until 1995, I worked for then-Gov. Evan Bayh first as an executive assistant in 1991 and then as Counsel to the Governor from 1991 until 1995. I also served as Bayh's Deputy Chief of Staff from 1994 until 1995.

From 1995 until 2007, I served as a Superior Court judge in Marion County in the Criminal Division I was initially appointed by Governor Bayh, and then stood for election in both 1996 and 2002.

While serving there, in 1998, I applied for a position on the Indiana Court of Appeals. I was nominated as one of the 3 finalists by the nominating commission, but Chief Judge Maggie Robb was the successful candidate.

In 2001, I applied for the position of magistrate judge in my current court. I was one of 5 finalists nominated by the merit selection commission, but not chosen. Magistrate Judge Tim Baker was the successful candidate.

I applied again for a magistrate vacancy in 2006, was selected by the district judges, and in January 2007, became a United States magistrate judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, where I served until becoming a district judge in 2010 following nomination and appointment by President Obama and confirmation by the United States Senate.

Jane Magnus-Stinson

Judge Magnus-Stinson's history, I believe, is an object lesson in the value of perseverance.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts | Vacancy on Supreme Court 2012

Ind. Gov't. - "Should legislators be able to hold two public jobs?"

Indiana isn't mentioned in this national story today from Melissa Maynard of Stateline. But the example cited sounds oddly familiar. The story begins:

Alabama legislators don’t make much money for their service, with base pay of $10 per day for most of the year and modest per diems to cover living expenses during the legislative session. But for years, many legislators could count on an additional perk: Supplemental income for themselves or their spouses from jobs in the two-year college system as instructors or administrators.

The practice has since been eliminated, and safeguards put into place to prevent future abuse, thanks to a 2006 investigation by The Birmingham News that won the Pulitzer Prize, landed some legislators behind bars, and led to a 2010 law banning legislators from most forms of public sector employment. The investigation found that a fourth of the 140 members of the legislature were financially linked to the community college system through direct employment or contracts ranging from $162,930 a year for Rep. Yvonne Kennedy for serving as a college president to $2,340 for Rep. Charles Newton for teaching history classes.

The ILB quoted the Birmingham News story in this Sept. 30, 2007 entry.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Indiana Government

Ind. Decisions - "Bisard case: New DNA, alcohol tests ordered - Ruling is victory for prosecutors in drawn-out case"

Here is a long list of earlier ILB entries on the Bisard case.

Vic Ryckaert reports today in the Indianapolis Star:

A Marion County judge handed prosecutors a victory Thursday in ordering new DNA and alcohol tests on blood taken from suspended police officer David Bisard after he crashed into a group of motorcyclists nearly two years ago.

That ruling is just the latest in a series of drawn-out legal maneuvers in the case, and the father of the man killed in that crash said his family's ordeal was far from over. * * *

Judge Grant Hawkins ordered that DNA be collected from Bisard and that DNA and alcohol tests be performed on the two vials of Bisard's blood drawn hours after his squad car crashed into riders stopped at a red light on the Northeastside.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Ind. Trial Ct. Decisions

Stage Collapse - "State Fair faulted in stage deaths Rigging inadequate, untested"

That is the headline to Niki Kelly's long story today in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette on the investigative reports released yesterday. It begins:

INDIANAPOLIS – State Fair officials failed to discuss or implement changes from a weather evacuation scenario conducted a month before tragedy struck the event, killing seven.

A weather radio broadcasting the latest severe thunderstorm warning wasn't in the joint operation center that August night where key decisions were being made.

State Fair Executive Director Cindy Hoye thought the band, Sugarland, had the final say on postponing or canceling the show.

These were just a few examples of deficiencies outlined by independent investigations released Thursday into the Aug. 13 State Fair rigging collapse just prior to the concert.

Overall the Indiana State Fair did not have an adequate emergency response plan and didn't follow the slim procedures it had, the investigations found.

Hoye and Andre Lacy, chairman of the Indiana State Fair Commission, remain in their positions – fully backed by Gov. Mitch Daniels.

"Retaining Cindy is exactly the right decision. Many other states would like to hire Cindy, and we're lucky to have her," Daniels told The Journal Gazette. "As today plainly showed, Andre Lacy is demonstrating a sense of the kind of accountability, transparency, and integrity that should be used to approach problems.

The Indianapolis Star today has extensive coverage of the reports and press conference. The story, by John Tuohy and Carrie Ritchie, begins:
No one took command as a storm approached, emergency plans were inadequate, the communications were ragtag and the construction was shoddy.

Oversight of safety standards? Nonexistent.

Yet top Indiana State Fair officials in charge at the time of last year's fatal stage rigging collapse will keep their jobs -- despite a pair of scalding reports issued Thursday.

With the blessing of Gov. Mitch Daniels, the Indiana State Fair Commission announced that its president and executive director will stay on to run the fair and implement recommendations from two independent firms that investigated the tragedy.

From later in the story:
The reports' findings run counter to statements made by Daniels, who in the days immediately following the stage collapse called the powerful wind gust that upset the stage a "fluke."

"Well, we know a lot more today than we did back in August 2011, and that's exactly why we hired the two firms to come in and to do the work that they've done," Jankowski said. "This is the information that we need to move forward." * * *

Rep. Ed DeLaney, D-Indianapolis, who supported legislation this year to regulate outdoor stages, said he found the reports "very troubling."

"We were not prepared in terms of our procedures, and obviously there were multiple problems with the stage," he said. "The wind was not as high as the minimum standard that was supposed to be protected against, and yet this happened."

The legislation was drafted quickly, so the legislature set it up to expire in 2014. DeLaney said the reports will go to committees that will study what went wrong and what provisions should go in a new bill.

"We've got to find a long-term statute that will help address these issues," DeLaney said. "This is pretty disturbing."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Stage Collapse

Environment - "National Park Service to restore Cowles Bog to former condition"

Some quotes from a long, unsigned story in yesterday's Chesterton Tribune:

A century ago, visitors to what is now the Dune Acres area on what is today U.S. Highway 12 would have seen something very different from the scene today.

In place of the current stand of trees, passersby would have looked out upon a much more open wetland area. The Cowles Bog Wetland Complex, as this area is known, contained the globally threatened lake plain wet-mesic prairie ecosystem and was home to an uncommon set of plants and animals. Over the last 100 years, however, the bog has been ditched, drained, farmed, polluted, and overtaken by trees, eliminating this unique landscape.

The National Park Service (NPS) has recently announced plans to restore this special corner of Northwest Indiana to its historical state. “The plans are a bold step to enhance the site for the use of students, scientists, and park visitors, and to improve regional quality of life,” NPS said in a statement released this week.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Friday, April 13, 2012
Posted to Environment