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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Ind. Courts - "Mandate threat shakes loose new money for local judges"

That is the headline to this June 5th NWI Times story by Bill Dolan. Some quotes:

CROWN POINT | Lake County's fiscal officials are cutting a $300,000 bargain with Lake Superior judges to avoid being dragged into court and being charged even more.

The County Council said Thursday it intends to give the judges authority to spend that money to give some of their employees one-time bonuses, to hire part-time employees and to buy computer software.

They will officially vote on the appropriations at Tuesday's meeting.

Council President Ted Bilski, D-Hobart, said the judges first asked last year for raises for court employees whose pay has been frozen the past six year as well as other money to help run their 17 courts.

However, council members said they couldn't find that money when they were making their 2014 budget. Bilski said the judges threatened to mandate the appropriations if they didn't find it.

Indiana's judiciary has the power to force fiscal officials to support court operations financially through the mandate process where an independent judge rules whether the demands are appropriate.

Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, said the judges were demanding a much higher amount than the $300,000 settled on during recent closed-door meetings between council members and the judges.

Council documents indicate supplemental pay will be one-time stipends of more than $1,000 per employee for this year.

"It's a first step to avoid a mandate. We will sit down with the judges later this year to discuss pay raises in 2015," Bilski said.

Hamm said the money is coming from excess user fees charged to attorneys who file and access documents on the court's online system. He said no property taxes are involved in the appropriation.

"And the judges themselves are not getting a nickle of this," Hamm said.

The ILB finds the highlighted sentence to be a matter of concern - excess user fees for access to public documents being used to fund court costs.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 10, 2014 09:23 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts