Counties, courts recover from flooding

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Johnson County Prosecutor Lance Hamner rushed to his downtown Franklin office on Saturday to save computers and files from floodwater.

At first, water was about an inch high. Within an hour, the floodwater had creeped higher - he was being shocked while trying to salvage computers. The water suddenly reached 4 feet, making the prosecutor's office look more like an aquarium than an office. Rushing floodwater rose even higher, crushing doors shut, trapping him inside so that he couldn't even escape through the ceiling.

"By this point, I realized I needed to get out of there but there was no way out. Then I heard an explosion. The walls had collapsed," Hamner wrote in an e-mail to Indiana Lawyer, noting that he looked out a window at one point and saw National Guardsmen performing rescues. He saw one of his deputy prosecutors being rescued.

"A baseball bat that I had used as a demonstrative exhibit in an attempted murder trial floated by," Hamner wrote. "I slipped it to the guardsmen who used it to pound out a window and I climbed out through that."

Now, the Johnson County Prosecutor's Office is destroyed and Hamner is working to find a temporary setup as the local legal community pushes forward.

Hamner's story is just one of several resulting from the storms Saturday that dropped up to 11 inches of rain on parts of the state, closing roads and flooding homes and businesses. The governor requested emergency federal aid late Sunday and overnight the president granted that request, declaring 29 counties disaster areas.

The legal community in Johnson County is most impacted by flooding at the prosecutor's and Court Appointed Special Advocates/Guardian Ad Litem offices. Both are destroyed, locals said. Water mixed with sewage reached about six feet inside the building, located below ground level just west of the historic county courthouse.

Multiple county offices and criminal court files kept in the prosecutor's office are drenched, as well as the Franklin City Court that is inside the police department south of the county square. City court officials couldn't be reached this morning, but Johnson Circuit Judge Mark Loyd said the local city court is likely closed for at least a few days because of damage.

Judge Loyd said his court is allowing prosecutors to use its computer system to pull up records and plea agreements so that court proceedings can go on, though some continuances are likely.

Court officials in other counties contacted this morning say that their courts are open and operating in many of these jurisdictions, including those in hard-hit areas of Bartholomew, Jackson, Morgan, and Vigo counties. Some local law offices were damaged, but many in those communities also escaped widespread destruction.

In Columbus, attorney Rich Eynon said his office on the outskirts of town wasn't impacted by the flooding that hit other areas and some downtown law offices more significantly. Many in the downtown area are just blocks from the river, and fortunately the floodwater didn't go toward the county courthouse, he said. Bartholomew County court officials reported they were open today.

"From the legal perspective, it could have been worse because it went everywhere so indiscriminately," he said.

By late morning, no county courts had requested any special assistance for flooding through a disaster action plan rule that went into effect Jan. 1, according to David Remondini, chief deputy director of the Indiana Supreme Court's Division of State Court Administration.

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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.