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Judge wins in mandate action

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A special judge has ruled in favor of St. Joseph Probate Judge Peter Nemeth, who'd issued a judicial mandate earlier this year directing county officials to transfer money for pay raises and improvements for the juvenile justice center.

In a 19-page judgment issued this morning, Valparaiso attorney and special judge William Satterlee ruled that officials must release about $355,000 from the county fund to pay for salary hikes and improvements at the county's Juvenile Justice Center. The ruling says that the funding is not only necessary for the operation of the court and related functions, but that it will not represent a financial burden to the county.

Judge Nemeth had issued a judicial mandate in early February, directing the county council and commissioners to appropriate about $355,000. He'd warned council members during the past year about the mandate possibility, saying he'd use that power if the council didn't approve about $79,000 in raises for his court staff. The council had denied the raises in the past two years, despite Judge Nemeth's emphasis that his employees are paid far less than their counterparts in other county courts and that he could issue the raises without using tax money. Instead, the judge wanted to use probation user fees to give raises to those eight employees.

The other money was set aside after Judge Nemeth had reduced the facility's number of beds late last year from 90 to 63.

As special judge, Satterlee held a two-day hearing on the issue in September and all parties submitted their closing briefs by Oct. 13.

"It's unfortunate that we had to go through this," Judge Nemeth said today. "The money was already there, and all we had to do was transfer it, and it wouldn't have cost the county taxpayers a dime. I don't understand the arbitrary capriciousness of our county officials, but this ruling shows our law is above that."

This mandate follows a September 2007 ruling from the Indiana Supreme Court, which held that trial judges must work with county officials and share the decision-making of how court money is spent. An interim legislative committee studied the issue this past summer and fall, but recommended that the General Assembly should defer any action on Indiana Trial Rule 60.5 while the state's highest court continues to respond by rule adoption.

Judge Nemeth pointed out that his mandate in February came on the same day when the Indiana Supreme Court revised Trial Rule 60.5, which governs judicial mandate cases and allowed for attorneys to serve as special judges rather than another sitting judge. His case was the first to utilize that new rule, he said.

County officials are able to appeal to the state's appellate courts, but the county's legal counsel couldn't immediately be reached to comment on whether that will happen.

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  2. 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!!!

  3. 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.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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