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Former Schererville judge sentenced

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A former judge in Lake County received a 15-month federal prison sentence on Thursday, four years after being indicted for extortion and fraud, and two years after she pleaded guilty to getting kickbacks from more than 1,000 defendants that she'd sentenced to driving school and counseling classes she secretly owned and personally profited from.

U.S. District Judge Philip Simon in the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division, sentenced former Schererville Town Judge Deborah Riga to prison and also ordered her to pay $12,120 in restitution to the town and state.

She was the second person elected to that town court and started in 2000; her plea agreement shows that within a year of taking the bench she set up the driver education and youth counseling programs and started using her judicial power to mandate criminal offenders attend those classes.

Court records show a similar but unrelated scheme where Riga had directed employees to change their hours and billing practices so that money normally going to the state and county would instead go to the town, and that the former judge stopped paying rent to the town for court space and had employees working on the township payroll whose wages should have come from a juvenile counseling program fund. At the sentencing hearing, Judge Simon noted the former judge made about $30,000 from that scheme.

Since Riga's indictment in 2004, the federal court granted six continuances and noted in its latest one in June that it would be the last. Part of the reason for delay was that Riga has been cooperating with the federal government in the prosecution of former political ally Robert Cantrell, who was convicted in June of 11 counts of fraud. That helped her get a reduced sentence, as well as the use of more lenient rules that were in place in 2002.

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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