Budget-busting judges

August 29, 2008
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From IL reporter Michael Hoskins, who attended the Aug. 28 Commission on Courts meeting:

Financial woes between courts and county officials can be found statewide, even nationally, in these tough economic times. Chances are it’s going to get worse.

That’s why a former Montgomery County official spoke to the Commission on Courts this week about judicial mandates. He was a county councilor when the judges there issued a mandate hiking the salaries of court employees; the case was ultimately decided by the Indiana Supreme Court. In the case In Re: Order for Mandate of Funds, Montgomery County Council. V. Hon. Thomas K. Milligan, et al., justices struck middle ground by encouraging a compromise between the county judges and officials.

Before the commission Thursday, Republican Sen. Phil Boots - who was in county government during the Montgomery mandate - noted how state lawmakers haven’t written a law or given sole power to county councils and that judges are crossing the separation of powers line by issuing mandates on money out of their control.

“If this continues…. judges could be budget-busters by mandating unreasonable amounts of money,” he said, noting that property tax changes stemming from recently adopted law will add extra burden to county coffers and likely result in more mandates.

Other county officials said they were skeptical about how special judges and ultimately appellate judges can fairly decide these mandate issues involving fellow judges. They also mentioned how attorneys are often reluctant to take on these mandating judges for of fear of retaliation when they later have to appear before those jurists. One Hendricks County official said it seems like counties are playing with a stacked deck.

Boots’ suggestion: either lawmakers should take away judges’ mandate powers, or courts should become state-governed so the Indiana Attorney General’s Office can represent any jurists in mandate actions that go to court. Recent legislation to make that happen has failed.

Chief Justice Randall Shepard weighed in, pointing out that Indiana courts have the thought that T.R. 60.5 “is printed on paper, not carved in stone.” It’s meant to create an environment where courts and counties can talk out and work through their issues. But the chief justice also supports a move to change the state’s court structure, such as having the state take over courts. That’s a topic that could be gaining more steam in coming months and might be brought up during the next legislative session.

In the meantime, the Indiana Judges Association and Indiana Association of Cities and Towns have been talking the past year about revising the mandate rule. A six-person committee has met once and hopes to meet again soon. Seems like there’s support from many angles, but the home rule and county control has not fully surfaced yet and will likely make the debate lively.
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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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