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Monday, December 05, 2016

Ind. Courts - Elimination of Hammond City Court would not be a radical idea

Supplementing this ILB post from Dec. 2nd, both the NWI Times and the Gary Post Tribune have stories this morning on the Hammond City Court.

"Hammond mayor seeks end to City Court " heads Ed Bierschenk's long story in the NWI Times. Some quotes:

HAMMOND — Mayor Thomas M. McDermott Jr. wants to see the City Court slowly put out of business over the next few years, which he contends will save Hammond as much as $1.5 million a year.

McDermott's plan involves having city police begin to file cases with the county courts next month and by Jan. 1, 2018, have all new city cases handled by the county rather than the city. An ordinance putting that plan into effect is being sponsored by Councilman Dave Woerpel, D-5th, and will be discussed at the City Council meetings in December, with a final vote scheduled for January.

McDermott estimated that probably about 50 percent of the court's business comes from tickets written by Hammond police.

He said there is probably a 75 percent chance that some criminal defendants may have to go to Crown Point rather than to the Hammond branch of the Lake Superior Court on Russell Street to have their cases heard. He said he has spoken to the county court about trying to have the civil cases and infractions, such as jaywalking and speeding, heard at the Hammond courthouse.

By July 2017, he wants all city ordinance violations handled through some type of ordinance, or code, court headed up by an attorney, which he said may only require one additional staff member.

Craig Lyons and Michelle L. Quinn have a story in the Gary Post-Tribune. A sample:
McDermott admitted he dropped the announcement suddenly on his weekly radio show and tempered his remarks afterward, calling the move "good government" modeled after one of his idols, former Indiana Gov. Joseph Kernan.

"This is not a political move; the court has been a luxury," McDermott said. "Is the timing suspicious with Gov. Pence appointing a St. John resident with no experience to the court? Yes. But if the council passes this, it's one of the things listed in the Kernan-Shepard report (from the Indiana Commission of Local Government Reform). This is a good government move and will save the city $1.5 million per year." * * *

Since the 2017 budget already allots for all court and clerk positions, any phasing out would start in earnest in 2018, McDermott said. As that happens, the city will do its best to place court and clerk employees facing job elimination — specifically, those who are Hammond residents, McDermott said in his segment — in other city positions as they come open.

As for Jorgensen, she would continue to receive her salary through Dec. 1, 2019, regardless of whether there are court cases, the mayor said.

"There will be no election in 2019 because there will no longer be a court," McDermott said. "This isn't a decision to eliminate the court for three years and then bring it back. Amy will be the last City Court judge in the city's history."

ILB: The abolition of city and town courts has long been an objective of the Indiana courts. The publication, "A New Way Forward," is the Indiana Judicial Conference's strategic plan to reform the courts, and includes abolishing city courts. The ILB has several posts on this, including this one from Nov. 5, 2010.

IC 33-35 deals with City and Town Courts. IC 33-35-1-1 deals with their establishment and abolition.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 5, 2016 08:44 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts