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Monday, June 04, 2012

Ind. Courts - "St. Joe County tax funds to pay for new courtrooms"

Eric Blasko of the South Bend Tribune reports today:

SOUTH BEND — St. Joseph County plans to spend $8.1 million on capital improvements, including new felony courtrooms, bond payments, police radios and other items as part of an annual spending bill now under consideration by the County Council.

Introduced last month by the Board of Commissioners, the bill, which passed out of committee with a unanimous favorable recommendation, represents the county's annual appropriation of county economic development income tax, or CEDIT, money. * * *

The bill, which will be considered by the County Council at its meeting June 12, appropriates $1.5 million to renovate parts of the first and second floor of the County-City Building, formerly the county jail, into four new, ADA-compliant felony courtrooms.

The new courtrooms, to be used by the county's four felony judges — Jane Woodward Miller, Jerome Frese, Roland Chamblee Jr. and John Marnocha — will free up space in the 1896 Courthouse, making it possible to schedule more civil jury trials there, Chief Superior Court Judge Michael Scopelitis said.

"The civil judges in this building (the 1896 Courthouse) for almost 20 years have had to share courtrooms," Scopelitis said. "David Chapleau, Margot Reagan and myself share one courtroom. So every six weeks, each of us gets two weeks in that courtroom to hold jury trials, which really makes scheduling very, very difficult.

The additional space will also allow the court to take better advantage of the services of its senior judges, Scopelitis said, and to petition the state for additional magistrates to handle the abundance of small claims and traffic and misdemeanor cases in the county.

"Our magistrates are so overworked," he said, noting that the court's two magistrates — Richard McCormick and Brian Steinke — work an equivalent of 100 weeks each year, according to weighted caseload measures calculated by the state.

If all goes to plan, work on the new courtrooms, each of which would include a jury box, a jury room and judge's chambers, could begin as soon as next month, Commissioner Andy Kostielney, R-District 1, said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 4, 2012 10:52 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts