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Friday, November 07, 2014

Ind. Courts - More on: Judges shall receive "a compensation which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office."

Updating this ILB post from Oct. 23rd where the ILB wrote: "it looks like the county will be paying attorney fees to Faegre Baker Daniels rather than reducing judges salaries," on Nov. 5th there was a follow-up story from John Estridge, editor of the Brookville American-Democrat. Some quotes:

In split decisions, Franklin County Council decided to pay the two Franklin County judges their $5,000 individual county stipends and pay the judges' legal fees, even though some of the council members and council meeting attendees said the judges sought a legal remedy too soon.

Even while council is paying the judges, members refused to pay the Franklin County Prosecutor and Assistant Prosecutor the same $5,000 stipend.

By Indiana law, the counties are mandated to not decrease a judge's salary. At some point in the past, council began paying the judges each the maximum amount allowed by the state, $5,000. Thus, the county has to pay that same amount every year unless the state gives the judges a raise. Then the county can deduct the amount of the state raise from the amount it gives the judges. * * *

County council members received a letter from an attorney representing Franklin Circuit Court Judge J. Steven Cox and Franklin Circuit Court II Judge Clay Kellerman dated Oct. 10. It does not mention the bonus, but among its demands are the $5,000 supplement for each judge in 2014 and another $5,000 be placed in the 2015 budget for each judge. Also, it demanded council pay for the legal fees the judges had incurred. If those specific items did not occur, then the judges were going to sue the county and the council members individually. * * *

Later in the meeting, council president Jeff Koch brought up the subject of the $3,800 in legal fees for the judges. That is when Leffingwell brought up the talk of transfers at the last meeting and the judges pulling the trigger too soon.

“I don't think we should pay the legal fees for the judges,” Leffingwell said. * * *

“It's up to you,” Koch said. “If council decides not to pay, then the lawsuit continues, and the only thing that is going to go up is the attorney fees.”

“If they push it,” Leffingwell said. “They got their $5,000.”

“The attorney fees just keep accruing,” council member Dean McQueen said.

“Every county that has tried to do it has lost,” Sizemore said.

Oglesby made a motion to pay the judges' attorney fees out of County Council Contingency Fund. McQueen seconded the motion, and it passed 4-3 with Daryl Kramer, Leffingwell and Sizemore voting against the motion. * * *

Kramer proposed council pay the judges quarterly in 2015 and then deduct any money from their pay if the General Assembly votes the judges a raise. * * * Oglesby disagreed with Kramer.

“Here's the problem,” Oglesby said. “We got a letter from their attorney, and it is filled with Indiana Codes and everything. You cannot differentiate it no matter what they've been paid. These guys can tell you this, but they don't have any laws to back them up. And minutes from the last meeting don't show $5,000 being made for the judges. It's not even in the minutes. It's not even going to hold up in court. You can talk about it, talk about it, talk about, it but if you don't have law to back up what you're doing, you're dead meat in the water.”

Prosecutors will not see the supplement in either year, Leffingwell said.

“There's no case law that says we have to pay their salary,” Leffingwell said. “Should it morally be paid, probably. But there's no statute that says we have to pay them.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 7, 2014 08:26 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts