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Friday, February 07, 2014

Ind. Courts - "Plenty of cases for Batesville city court"

Early in January Debbie Blank of the Batesville Herald-Tribune had two stories on the state court report figures relevant to the counties served by her newspaper.

Today she looks at the Batesville City Court. Some quotes:

Because Batesville is that rare city located in two counties, Batesville City Court Judge John Kellerman II hears cases from both Ripley and Franklin.

Starting his seventh year as judge, he explains, “There are no cases that come to my court automatically except if somebody is accused of violating a city ordinance.” In other cases, it's up to county prosecutors or plaintiffs whether or not they want to use the city court.

On Jan. 1, 2012, 697 cases were pending in the court, according to the 2012 Indiana Judicial Service Report and Probation Report. During the year, there were 524 new filings.

In 2012, the Batesville court disposed of 556 cases – 371 infractions, 146 civil collections, 32 ordinance violations, three civil plenary cases (a Latin term that means powerful or plenty, the dispute could involve money or an activity) and four miscellaneous civil problems. The city court doesn't have jurisdiction over felony cases.

On Dec. 31 of that year, the court had 665 pending cases.

Kellerman, who usually schedules court appearances on Wednesday afternoons because he also has a private law practice, conducted 55 bench trials in 2012. Forty-six were civil collection lawsuits. * * *

Eight infractions were diverted by the judge. He explains, “Under Indiana law, the county prosecutor, when an infraction occurs (such as no seat belt, speeding or running a stop sign) can choose to divert” it if the person has a clean record. The defendant signs an agreement with the prosecutor, admitting guilt. He or she pays a fine and court costs and must stay out of trouble for a time period. If that happens, the diverted case will get dismissed.

Two persons charged with infractions admitted they were guilty, according to the report.

By far the majority of city court cases, 329 involving infractions and ordinance violations, were handled through a violations bureau. In Batesville, that's clerk Debbie Krause. According to the report, “a defendant makes an admission, pleads nolo contendere (Latin for “I do not wish to contest”) or pays a fine ... through the clerk” or mail rather than in court. * * *

The local court spent $81,538 in 2012, $7,562 less than its $89,100 budget approved by the city council. Almost 93 percent of that was on wages and benefits. Salary expenditures totalled $75,295: $23,547 for the part-time judge's salary, $33,342 for the full-time clerk's pay and $18,406 for her benefits.

Expenses that included $2,407, rentals and technology; $1,446, miscellaneous; $1,200, other services; $500, postage; $405, printing; and $285, supplies; totalled up to $6,243.

While defendants paying fines may think the local court keeps all the dollars, that's not true. The judge reports, “A significant portion of the money we collect has to be turned over to the state of Indiana.”

Of all the fees and costs collected, Krause estimates about 20 percent goes to the counties, about 25 percent to the city and 55 percent to the state to fund Indiana State Police, highways, the general fund and other projects.

If there is a fine involved with an infraction or criminal case, 100 percent of that goes to the state, according to the judge. If the fine is for an ordinance violation, 100 percent stays with the local jurisdiction.

The Batesville court gathered up $39,366 in fees and fines in 2012 that went to three sources – state, country and local. The state received $24,339, while the counties earned $4,421. Local funding added up to $10,606, half of which came from court costs.

As mandated by state code, that $10,606 went into various funds within the city treasury, such as general, local law enforcement continuing education, court clerk and judicial salaries.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 7, 2014 09:34 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts