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Monday, June 03, 2013

Ind. Courts - St. Joseph Superior Court Chief Judge Michael Scopelitis retires after 13 years on bench

This long story, with photo, \ by Madelline Buckley is available on the South Bend Tribune web site. Some quotes:

During his tenure as chief judge, Scopelitis, among other things, oversaw a project that is in progress to build four more county courtrooms, launched a bid to raise salaries for court employees and altered the way the county assembles a pool of potential jurors.

The salary problem was a particular pet project of Scopelitis's, as he said many employees of the court and clerk's office earn wages barely above the poverty line.

"There's something wrong with any system, especially a government entity, that pays its employees so little that it makes them eligible for government subsidies," Scopelitis said.

Noting that the employees here handle complicated and crucial legal issues and documents every day, he took the cause to county officials last year. The court employees did get a raise, although it was not what Scopelitis had hoped.

In researching the issue, Scopelitis said he compared the salaries of court workers here to those in the 17 most populous counties in Indiana.

The salaries of St. Joseph County employees fell at the bottom. After the raises, he said, the salaries are still near the bottom of that group.

In an open letter to county judges, attorneys and court staff regarding his retirement, Scopelitis urged them to continue fighting for a fair wage.

He also sought to address the issue of overcrowding in the current county courthouse.

Four new courtrooms are currently under construction in the County-City Building where the jail formerly was, estimated to be completed next April.

The four criminal Superior Court judges will move to those courtrooms, freeing up the courtrooms in the current courthouse for the four civil court judges, who share a space now.

The move will also create space for the county to potentially petition to hire additional traffic and misdemeanor magistrates. The current two are overburdened, Scopelitis said, but the county currently has no space for more magistrates. * * *

Upon Scopelitis's departure, St. Joseph Superior Court Judge Jenny Pitts Manier will be chief judge, a role that Scopelitis joked is like "chief maintenance officer," as even issues like courthouse plumbing will fall under her purview.

Private practice attorney Steven L. Hostetler will replace Scopelitis on the bench.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 3, 2013 12:00 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts