ILNews

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. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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