Jefferson courts relocate, salvage documents

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2009
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The Jefferson Superior and Circuit courts have relocated in Madison and are working to get their offices up and running to handle emergency matters. The courts were forced out of the Jefferson County Courthouse after a fire May 20.

Circuit Court has moved to the Venture Out business center at 875 Industrial Dr. on the hill in Madison. Circuit Judge Ted Todd said the court is still trying to set up and is using folding tables and chairs until they can order furniture.

Superior Court is now at the former law offices of Superior Judge Alison Frazier at 217 E. Second St. Superior Court is using borrowed items until the court can get new equipment ordered; phone lines should be connected in the next few days, said Superior Court reporter Narda Kidwell.

Both courts are trying to salvage as many documents as they can. The fire didn't destroy the building below the roof and the dome that houses the court clock and bell, but part of the roof caved in over Circuit Court, which was located on the third floor, Judge Todd said. Superior Court didn't suffer as much damage because it was located on the second floor.

A company has taken the accessible documents from the courts and clerk's office, which was on the second floor, and will freeze dry the wet documents to restore them. Judge Todd said there are a lot of records still in the Circuit Court's offices. Because of the roof collapse, he said they can't go in and recover the files and records on desks and in filing cabinets until the bell tower is removed.

"I was up there for a brief time, as was a court reporter," Judge Todd said. "We know visually what it's like. The files in the filing cabinets should be able to be recaptured once we can get up there."

They hope to get those records out this week, but it depends on how much progress has been done in removing the dome.

The courthouse backup system for computers and scanned documents is up to date through the day of the fire, Judge Todd said, and the courts should be able to reconstruct any missing documents thanks to Chronological Case Summaries and files from attorneys.

Because the courts are under the emergency-relief order granted by the Indiana Supreme Court May 21, they are handling only emergency matters at the county jail


 Jefferson County Courthouse. Photo by Rebecca Collier because the courts need to get equipment for recording and establish a more systematic way for new matters to be filed, Judge Todd said. Judge Frazier and Judge Todd are splitting the emergency custody, CHINS, juvenile, criminal, and protective-order matters.

Both Judge Todd and Kidwell noted how the legal community and general community has helped by donating law books, legal pads, and office equipment for use until the courts can order their own.

"Everyone's been great. There's a lot of support and everybody's helped us make sure we have the things we need," the judge said.

There's no time frame for how long the courts will be in their temporary locations, but Judge Todd hopes to be set up to handle other hearings before the noon June 5 deadline in the emergency-relief order.

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