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Sunday, November 18, 2012

Ind. Courts - A day, and ultimately, a year, in the life of one Indiana juvenile court

On Dec. 10, 2011 Dave Bangert of the Lafayette Journal Courier had a very long column on a day in the life of a juvenile court. The ILB linked to it at the time, and I'm happy to report that the entire JC story is still available online. It began:

So where do you start in telling about a Wednesday in late November in Tippecanoe Superior Court 3, one that more than a few regulars in the court where juvenile and family matters are heard chalk up as a typical day?
Today Mr. Bangert has an equally lengthy follow-up story, headed "A day in juvenile court: Revisited | Turmoil, kids on the brink and real redemption play out in the course of a year." Today's column begins:
A full day spent in Tippecanoe Superior Court 3, the county’s juvenile court, is enough to ask: Where do you start to tell about the tragic, the sad, the horrific and the dumbfounding stories that unfold, one after another, in that courtroom?

Tracing those cases nearly a year later is enough to ask: Does it ever end?

“These cases are long,” said Judge Loretta Rush, Tippecanoe County’s juvenile judge until Nov. 7, when she was sworn in as an Indiana Supreme Court justice. “You do everything you can to keep them moving. To find answers for these families. To protect those kids. Always to protect those kids.”

Starting with one day’s caseload — in this instance, the ones heard Nov. 30, 2011 — it’s easy to see how bad decisions grow strings that don’t just get longer, but tend to get knotted, tangled and more complicated for everyone involved.

“There are hundreds and hundreds of these cases,” Rush said in her final week in the Tippecanoe County Courthouse. “Once you know this is going on, you can’t ignore it. I can’t.”

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, November 18, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts

Ind. Courts - Should a highly respected Indiana trial judge, who was a star athlete for Ball State in the late 1970s, preside over a case involving the school?

The question is presented in this fascinating opinion piece in today's Muncie Star Press, by Larry Riley, who teaches English at Ball State University. Here are some quotes:

Last week saw the first official court hearing in Ball State University v. David and Jane Hiatt et al, the et al including directors of a trust and Chris Hiatt, operator of Hiatt Printing.

Hiatt Printing’s main office is on Wheeling north of Centennial, but a satellite office sits just off BSU’s campus on McKinley, exactly where the university envisions a $26 million hotel and immersive learning program for several majors related to travel, hospitality and food services among others.

Hiatt and family have declined to sell their property for $400,000, the last price Ball State offered. * * *

Given no sales agreement, university trustees authorized use of eminent domain condemnation through court, a controversial power government has to take property when needed to fulfill necessary government functions.

The process includes a court appointing a pair of appraisers to come up with a fair-market value for the property, which the government must pay. * * *

In large part, the hearing was for Circuit Court 1 Judge Marianne Vorhees to disclose to both sides — though nothing new to local counsel, such as Ball State’s attorneys Jim Williams and Scott Shockley of Defer-Voran — her connections to the university.

Vorhees said she consulted with Indiana’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications, who agreed that her ties to Ball State are not of the nature or to the degree that would demand she recuse herself and step away from the case.

Still, her connections would “require disclosure,” in her words, to give either party the option of asking for a change of judge.

Voorhees was a softball-playing athlete for Ball State — left fielder, I believe. The daughter of a legendary local coach, Francis Lafferty — McCulloch Park’s baseball field is named for him — she was always involved in sports.

Vorhees was in Ball State’s first class of women student-athletes to receive scholarships at Ball State and twice her teams won college state championships.

She graduated in 1980.

She’s since been heavily involved in the Cardinal Varsity Club, a sports booster group at Ball State, serving once as president and she said she’s currently on the board.

She also served on the search committee that this year recommended the hiring, since done, of current athletic director Bill Scholl, from Notre Dame, where Vorhees went to law school, finishing in 1983. * * *

As plaintiffs, Ball State filed in Vorhee’s court, seemingly happy with her presiding. The defendants told the court they’d like to consider their options for several days.

The judge made plain that she’d certainly like to stay on the case, a case, she said, “with some interesting legal issues. Most attorneys around here,” she said to Hiatt’s Indianapolis lawyers, “will tell you I love interesting legal cases.” * * *

“There is no case law on this,” Defense counsel Phil Severs told me after the hearing. So what gets decided will establish precedent.

One might presume that whoever loses at the trial court level would appeal the decision, and while Ball State wants the case on a fast track, you’d have to think a final resolution will take years.

The issue Hiatt’s side wants to address is “whether the taking is legitimate or not, which is central to the case,” Sever told the court. The defendants feel building and operating a hotel isn’t part of the educational mission of the school.

Ball State disagrees.

Arguments will focus on state law written after a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling allowed governments to take private property from one owner and convey it to another owner if subsequent development benefits the community.

In response, several states, including Indiana, wrote new laws to prevent government confiscation for non-government use. Ball State vs. Hiatt appears to be the first to test exactly what Indiana’s law means.

ILB: Here is the website of the law firm Sever Storey, identified as eminent domain attorneys representing landowners. Mr. Sever is located in Carmel.

The 2005 SCOTUS decision mentioned in the story is of course Kelo v. City of New London (6/23/05) (ILB entry here).

This ILB entry from January 8, 2006 includes a link to the post-Kelo bill that ultimately became law in Indiana.

Here is a full list of the many earlier ILB entries mentioning Kelo.

Finally, ILB readers will recall that Hon. Marianne L. Vorhees, Delaware Circuit Court 1, was a strong contender this fall for the Supreme Court vacancy to which now-Justice Loretta Rush was ultimately named.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on Sunday, November 18, 2012
Posted to Indiana Courts