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Abrams: A New Justice Center ? ! ? !

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jeff abrams ibaThe offices of the Indianapolis Bar Association first learned of the city’s interest in pursuing a Justice Center several months ago when they expressed interest in learning more about our task force work over the last 10 years. However, when some bits and pieces were leaked to the media it was very quickly announced that a new Criminal Justice Center was being considered at a location near the Indianapolis Airport. This announcement sent shivers down the spines of our local judiciary and the Criminal Justice Section of the Indianapolis Bar Association, making it time for our Judicial Center Task Force, which has been involved for many, many years, and some executive officers, to more actively engage with representatives of the Mayor’s Office to learn all that the city had planned for this new facility in a very short period of time. We were very fortunate to have John Kautzman, who has chaired the task force on and off as interest has grown and waned, volunteer his time for this project. He took a very active role in communicating with representatives from the city of Indianapolis and the Mayor’s Office to understand what and where this facility was being proposed.

We quickly convened meetings with representatives from the city to discuss the viability of the airport and the concerns for true access to justice for our citizens. It became very clear to the representatives of the city that the airport location, while financially sound, might not be the best choice, and we encouraged them to reconsider other alternatives in the community. There were numerous meetings to understand the nuances of the project. The combination of the processing center, the jail, the criminal courts, the prosecutor’s office and the public defender’s office in one complex had substantial benefits.

It was around this time that those overseeing the redevelopment of the old GM Stamping Plant had made an announcement that there were developers looking at redeveloping the property for private use. We promptly initiated discussions to understand if there was land available at this site for a Justice Center. The location, being much closer to downtown Indianapolis, made this a very appealing choice as compared to the 12 other locations that had been considered by the city’s consultants.

During the winter months, John Kautzman and I met with different city representatives to continue to discuss and voice the concern that the airport location was flawed. We informed them there needed to be a better location closer to the downtown area in order for the Indianapolis Bar Association, on behalf of the judiciary, our Criminal Justice Section and all other attorneys and paralegals, to support the city’s efforts. Fortunately, the city acknowledged our concerns and, as we understand it, are recommending the GM Stamping Plant as a proper location for the future Criminal Justice Center.

While the IndyBar Board of Directors voted to support this location at this time, there are still a lot of questions to be asked and answers to be provided to our task force before this project can be commenced and completed for the benefit of our community. For example, there are numerous planning elements that should be considered so that it is a better functioning and operating facility for the judiciary, for attorneys and for their clients. The city has hired a consultant to assist with this process. We have been assured there will be meetings and opportunities for our members to review plans and specifications. We will be able to provide input so that if and when this project is completed, it will be a facility that is functional for all of us and continues to make a statement that Indianapolis is a phenomenal place to live and work.•

A Justice Center could be a real plum.
Stay tuned as there will be much more information to come.
Accepting a bad location we will never succumb.
But when it opens, we can proudly beat our bass drum.

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