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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Ind. Courts - FWJG on the changeover in the Allen County Superior Court judgehip dealing with civil family law and juvenile criminal law

Updating this ILB entry from March 5th (which is well-worth rereading), the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette has two stories today on the changeover.

This long editorial, which is the paper's "Sunday Centerpiece," is headed "Sims leaves expansive legacy." It begins:

If Stephen Sims’ only legacy in the Allen County judicial system were building a state-of-the art juvenile facility, he would be worthy of admiration.

The Allen County Juvenile Center, often referred to in the legal community as the ACJC, has led to lasting improvements in juvenile justice that go beyond detaining children in a place far more livable and safer than the depressingly outdated and inadequate building it replaced.

But Sims has done much more. In his career as an Allen County Superior Court judge and, before that, as Allen County prosecutor, Sims left his mark in several significant ways. Consider:

•As prosecutor, he introduced DNA evidence in a trial for the first time in Indiana.

•As judge, he found a way to help intervene – but not intrude – in the lives of some of the county’s most vulnerable citizens, its babies.

•He worked with the county’s school systems to develop a sophisticated system for educating juvenile offenders.

•Drawing both criticism and praise, he used laws targeting organized crime to close down adult bookstores in the city, leading to court decisions that defined – at least in the 1980s – local standards that separated legal pornography from illegal obscenity.

•He developed a common-sense deferred prosecution program that allows for eventually dismissing charges against eligible people while establishing an ongoing revenue stream that saves taxpayers money.

Still, his most visible legacy is the juvenile center.

The second story, this one by Tracy Warner, editorial page editor, is headed "Heath ready for new role." It begins:

Judge Dan Heath soon will be in charge of a school, and he’s been doing a lot of homework.

When he transfers from the Civil Division of the Allen Superior Court to the Family Division, he will be moving from the Courthouse to the Allen County Juvenile Center. Geographically, the distance is just two miles, but from a legal perspective it is much farther.

Heath will be hearing cases covering a significantly different area of the law from the business tort, medical malpractice, personal injury, estate and other civil claims he hears now. Heath will be ultimately responsible for the Juvenile Center, including its important education component as well as juvenile probation officers, confinement officers, two magistrates and a host of other duties.

Another big difference: In civil court, most of the judge’s work involves analyzing legal briefs and writing orders and decisions. In Family Court, he will spend much time conducting hearings on the bench.

But more than a month before he assumes the seat that Judge Stephen Sims is vacating, it’s clear Heath has been doing research. He will tell you that the juvenile center has 164 employees and 140 beds for detainees. Its budget is nearly $9 million. The constitutional rights of juveniles to be protected behind bars are even stronger than for adults. He has already made plans to attend a weeklong seminar on juvenile and family court law.

“I’ve been reading tons of stuff,” he says.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 24, 2013 12:01 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts