Friday, December 02, 2016
Ind. Courts - Yet more on "Special judge appointed to Hammond City Court "
Updating this ILB post from Nov. 23rd, which quoted reports that Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott Jr. was unhappy with Gov. Pence's appointment to fill the Hammond City Court judge vacancy, the NWI Gazette has a post today from Ken Davidson that begins:
In his weekly radio show [today, Dec. 2], Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott, Jr. announced that he has asked the Hammond City Council to begin “systematically and slowly closing down our city court over time.” McDermott stated that closing down the Court would be a three step process that would take up to three years. The first step would be accomplished as soon as January 1, 2017 according to the Mayor. “I will order the Hammond Police Department to stop filing all criminal cases in Hammond City Court effective January 1, 2017” Mayor McDermott announced. Attorney Kevin Smith explained that Hammond City Courts hear primarily three types of cases “the city and town courts around Lake County hear usually ordinance violations, which are like if you don’t cut your grass, don’t have your dog tags, then they have infractions which are like your speeding tickets, traffic tickets, and then they hear criminal misdemeanor cases which carry up to one year in jail that is like theft, DUI . . . ” McDermott explained that Hammond residents who are charged with a crime “may be inconvenienced.” “If you are charged with a crime, you may have to go to Crown Point. I don’t care, don’t get charged with a crime” the Mayor stated.
In 2019 we are predicting that all cases will be out of Hammond City Court by that time and Judge Jurgensen will get paid for nothing. McDermott stated that he hoped all Court and Clerk employees who live in Hammond and may be displaced by the plan would be absorbed into other City jobs.
The Mayor stated that the plan has been in the works for 8 years. “The court continuously loses money” the Mayor stated. “Clerk Golec and I have been talking about this and he has already downsized his staff” the Mayor explained.
Some of the cases, particularly ordinance violations and civil cases, could be absorbed by the Lake Superior Court in Hammond. The Lake Superior Court is located at 232 Russell Street, just steps from the proposed new City Hall and the Hammond Police Station. One area of concern that was not mentioned by the Mayor or Kevin Smith is evictions. The Hammond City Court handles a large number of eviction cases for Hammond residents as well as for tenants in neighboring communities. Many of those cases will now be pushed off to Lake Superior Court in Hammond or Crown Point.