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Suit filed against Marion County traffic court

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A suit filed today claims the Marion County traffic court judge is violating residents' constitutional rights by imposing additional fines on those who unsuccessfully challenge their tickets and closing proceedings to the public.

Plaintiffs Toshinao Ishii, Matthew Stone, and Adam Lenkowsky filed their suit in Marion Superior Court No. 11 against Marion Superior Judge William E. Young in Court No. 13 and the city of Indianapolis. The suit seeks declaratory and injunctive relief through an order of mandamus prohibiting Judge Young to impose additional fines against defendants who fail to win their cases before the traffic and parking violations courts.

The suit, a class action complaint, also asks for a return of the fines received by the court, and to keep the traffic court from closing its courtroom to the public. The plaintiffs claim the imposition of additional fines has a chilling effect on the fair and equitable administration of justice.

According to the suit, when Judge Young took the bench in traffic court this year, he instituted a policy that defendants that come before his court and are found guilty would be fined up to an additional $500 and could even be assessed up to $10,000 plus court costs. The traffic courtroom is also open only to defendants. No one else, including parents of minors who have received tickets, can be present during procedings.

Ishii appeared in traffic court to contest a ticket; he lost and was fined an addition $400. Stone was cited for improperly wearing a seatbelt. He wears it differently because of a pacemaker and chose not to challenge the ticket because of Judge Young's policy. Lenkowsky asked to enter the courtroom as a member of the public and was denied entrance.

The suit also includes the newly opened parking citation court in Indianapolis, in which defendants who don't pay their ticket prior to a scheduled hearing may be assessed up to $2,500 in fines, according to the city of Indianapolis.

The threat of these fines violates the Eighth and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, sections 12, 16 and 23 of the Indiana Constitution, according to the suit.

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