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Jefferson County Courthouse reopens

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More than two years after an accidental fire destroyed the Jefferson County Courthouse roof and heavily damaged the upper floor, those displaced by the fire have moved back into the landmark.

Several years ago, nearly $175,000 was spent renovating the courthouse, and on May 20, 2009, the day renovations to the courthouse were finished, smoke and flames were seen in that evening coming out of the courthouse roof. The fire was later ruled accidental, the result of contractors soldering copper downspouts and gutters on the roof.

The offices and courts were displaced, with the third floor suffering the most damage due to its proximity to the fire, but water damage was an issue throughout the building. Jefferson Circuit and Superior courts relocated into separate buildings in Madison, Ind. The records housed in the courthouse were backed up electronically up to the day of the fire, and many paper files were able to be saved through a freezing process and restoration.

The Circuit and Superior courts, clerk’s office, and the offices of the assessor, auditor, recorder, treasurer, county commissioners, and IT department began their move back into the restored courthouse the first week of August. Jefferson County Commissioner Julie Berry said the county used Department of Correction inmates from the Henryville Correctional Unit to move the offices from their temporary locations. The move was supervised by the county highway department and saved the county more than $20,000, she estimated. All offices are now up and running.

The outside will look nearly the same, as the courthouse is situated in downtown Madison, which is a historic district and has certain regulations for buildings in the area. But there were changes made inside, such as making the building more energy efficient and the incorporation of security measures. Because of the damage to the third floor, which houses the Circuit Court, officials were able to reconfigure the layout and convert the area designated for the library into a third courtroom.

Circuit Judge Ted Todd noted that thanks to computers, the courts don’t really need a library anymore. Now, the courts can utilize that space as a third courtroom when a senior judge comes onboard while Judge Todd is on a jury trial. It also allows Judge Todd to use the room when Superior Court needs a courtroom for a 12-person jury. The Superior Court, housed on the second floor, remains pretty much the same as before the fire as load-bearing walls prevented reconfiguration. That court only has a jury room big enough to handle a six-person jury.

The fire also uncovered hidden plaster molding in the Circuit courtroom. It was covered up by a lower ceiling, and officials hired a local craftsman to recreate what was missing, Berry said.

This would be the second time since the fire the Circuit Court has moved. They were in one office for two months just after the fire, and then moved into another location until the renovations were complete, said Judge Todd.

“We had a windowless room, it was sort of debilitating,” he said, noting how happy staff is to be back in the courthouse. “Everybody has a smile on their face and feeling good. It’s nice to be back.”

Now, officials will celebrate the reopening of the courthouse with a rededication ceremony Aug. 26. Berry said it will be a tribute to the volunteer fire departments that helped save the courthouse. Judge Todd and Superior Judge Alison Frazier will be on hand to speak, as well as Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard. There will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony to “open up” the courthouse.

Tours will be held Aug. 27, as well as an open house for those interested in seeing the renovated courthouse.
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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