Clark County drug court gets conditional approval

Dave Stafford
March 26, 2014
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Clark County Drug Treatment Court participants will continue with programs diverting their criminal cases in favor of treatment, but it’s uncertain whether the troubled program may ever again serve people arrested on nonviolent drug charges.

The Indiana Judicial Center in February took the unprecedented step of suspending one of its certified problem-solving courts. The move came after multiple people were jailed for months without due process and allegations surfaced that drug court staff had made unauthorized arrests or searches of drug court participants.

The caseloads for the court’s approximately 70 participants have been transferred from Clark Circuit 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi to Clark Circuit 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael.

“The participants in the program are still under court orders to do certain things,” said Indiana Supreme Court outreach coordinator Sarah Kidwell. “They’re also still being supervised by case managers.”

Earlier this month, Judicial Center Executive Director Jane Seigel notified Carmichael of the conditions for the court’s continued operations. It cannot accept new participants but has the authority to accept new cases of anyone currently in the program.

Carmichael is to oversee drug court operations and preside over sessions and direct case managers. Additional conditions include:

• A representative of the Clark County prosecutor’s office must attend and participate in weekly team meetings and court sessions.

• A member of the defense bar will serve as an advocate for the legal interests of participants at drug court sessions, and Carmichael will advise each participant of his/her right to legal representation during drug court participation.

• The Judicial Center will review the drug court certification that could include interviews with staff, participants, team members; observation of court sessions and reviews of case management and court files.

• The court’s policies and procedures may be revised to conform with I.C. 33-23-16 governing problem-solving courts.

Kidwell said the Supreme Court, Judicial Center and Clark County court officials are working together, but no plan is yet in place that would lift the drug court suspension. “Any particulars of moving forward are being carefully considered,” she said.

Eight former drug court participants sued Jacobi, various county officials and drug court staff members Feb. 28 and seek to establish a class action in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, New Albany. The suit, Destiny Hoffman, et al. v. Judge Jerome Jacobi, et al., 4:14-CV-00012, alleges civil rights violations of plaintiffs who said they were subjected to improper detentions, some lasting several months, and other alleged due process violations.

Two Clark County drug court staff members – former director Susan Knoebel, who was fired by Jacobi, and Jeremy Snelling – are named among defendants in the civil suit and have demanded a jury trial.

In the meantime, no disciplinary action related to the drug court had been initiated against Jacobi by the Judicial Qualifications Commission as of March 21. Kidwell said she could not comment about whether any complaints had been received.•


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