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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "Lake officials debate if courtrooms are safe enough"

From a Sept. 21st story in the NWI Times by Bill Dolan:

CROWN POINT | A Lake Criminal judge said people rarely enter or leave his courtroom in a good mood.

Senior Judge Salvador Vasquez asked the Lake County Council on Monday to hire two full-time bailiffs to bring security to his and Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell's venues up to full strength.

The County Council, holding a workshop for a balanced 2016 budget, didn't vote on the request.

"We often have packed courtrooms. It can go south very fast. I have a part-time bailiff, but I could lose him tomorrow. We need a bailiff who can take someone down," Vasquez said.

Ray Szarmach, an attorney for the County Council whose law practice takes him into criminal court, noted "this is not traffic court."

"These are really bad people, the most violent," Szarmach said.

"But where are we going to get the money?" asked Councilman Eldon Strong, R-Crown Point.

The county's four Lake Superior, Criminal Division judges preside over dozens of murder and hundreds of other violent felony cases annually. Vasquez has held more than 7,000 hearings in recent months, according to court statistics.

Until five years ago, each judge employed three bailiffs to move criminal defendants from jail to the courtroom and keep order in a room often crowded with defendants free on bond, crime victims and their friends and family.

Councilman David Hamm, D-Hammond, said the judge and and Boswell agreed five years ago to reduce their staff to to two full-time and one part-time bailiff when county government was in a financial crisis.

Tax revenues have recovered and Vasquez wants to restore both of the part-time bailiffs to full-time.

Hamm, who estimates this would cost the county as much as $50,000 a year, said it is a necessity "that I hope this isn't forced on us by a mandate or an unfortunate occurrence in the courtroom."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 24, 2015 11:02 AM
Posted to Indiana Government