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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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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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