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. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well