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Friday, October 17, 2014

Ind. Courts - "Hidden camera investigation prompts rule change"

The proposed "Scott" amendment to the Marion County Local Rules, filed by Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg on Oct. 16, would strike the current rule, which allows a judge to charge "a reasonable fee for weddings," and specifies that the fee for weddings performed on the court premises during regular office hours shall be $80, but is otherwise silent.

The proposed new rule would state that a judge may perform a wedding on court premises as a free service to the public at any time. A judge may perform a "paid wedding" off premises, so long as it is not during regular office hours. The proposal then details the requisite conduct of the judge and staff in either event.

The public may comment on the proposal through Nov. 30th.

As Kara Kenney reported last evening
at WRTV6:

Marion County is considering new rules for its small claims courts in direct response to a Call 6 hidden camera investigation into a judge using public resources to promote her private wedding business.

Michelle Scott resigned her Center Township position after Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney found government workers at the City County Building, both in the small claims court office and the CCB information desk, handing out Scott’s private wedding business cards and directing people to her private office on Market Street.

“I think your series made it clear there was a problem,” said Judge Louis Rosenberg, Marion County Circuit Court and adviser for Marion County Small Claims Courts. “That’s why we acted the way we did.”

Rosenberg and small claims court judges, including Lawrence Township Small Claims Court Judge Clark Rehme, drafted a proposed rule that would impact all nine township small claims courts in Marion County.

The rule would prohibit judges from using public officials or public employees to solicit wedding business for a fee.

“You bringing this to our attention really was a big catalyst to making this rule,” Rehme told Kenney. “One bad apple spoils the whole bunch. I hope this rule helps restore, if not bolster, some more confidence in our positions.”

Rehme said he performs about a dozen weddings a year, and usually only charges a fee if he performs a ceremony on the weekend.

“We’re supposed to be there as a catch-all,” said Rehme. “If you want a nice wedding, feel free to call a wedding planner and get it done.” * * *

Numbers obtained by the Call 6 Investigators show Michelle Scott and her husband Rich perform more weddings than any other wedding officiants in Marion County.

The Scotts have officiated more than 1,300 weddings since January 2013, which is 12 percent of all ceremonies performed.

Their website shows they charge $150 for a weekday wedding at their office and $300 for a weekend wedding at the office.

“That seemed a little above and beyond,” said Rehme regarding the Scott’s wedding fees.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 17, 2014 05:56 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts