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Justice touts Odyssey, counties seek addition judicial officers

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The Commission on Courts meeting Wednesday contained some familiar elements: Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan testified regarding Odyssey and two trial judges have once again asked for an additional judicial officer.

Justice Sullivan kicked off the meeting, giving commission members an update on the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee project, Odyssey, a case management system being implemented in counties. The justice touted the benefits of counties utilizing the voluntary CMS, and showed videos to enhance his message.

A commission member asked a question regarding data mining the information maintained by Odyssey, to which Justice Sullivan replied the information could be helpful to legislators to do their work, and that there are limitless opportunities for analysis of the data. He cited funding recently given to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute by the federal government to study the issue of racial profiling of traffic stops.

Justice Sullivan also explained how this year’s cut by the General Assembly to the automated record keeping fee, which funds Odyssey, will impact implementation of the system. The fee decreased from $7 to $5 on July 1. He said they’ve had to reduce staff size somewhat and are in the process of re-writing consulting contracts. The fee reduction will also slow down the rate at which Odyssey can be installed.

Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts, who is also a member of the Commission on Courts, testified on behalf of his county asking to replace an Allen Circuit Court hearing officer with a magistrate position. He said this is the third or fourth time he has come with the request. One of the reasons he cited for wanting to make John Kitch a magistrate is that he wants to be able to keep him as an employee.

Owen Circuit Judge Frank Nardi also came with request that he has made before the commission in the past – he seeks a new judge. Currently, Circuit Court consists of him and a part-time referee. He said he would like separate independent courts: that could be done with the creation of a Superior Court or another Circuit Court, or the referee could be made into a magistrate.

Hendricks Superior Judges Robert Freese and Stephenie LeMay-Luken requested the addition of up to two magistrates. Judge Freese cited the population growth in Hendricks County and how the county has one judge per 24,000 people. The state averages about 16,000 people per judge. Ideally, they’d like the new magistrate or magistrates to begin July 1, 2012 or Jan. 1, 2013.

The judges presented a letter signed by the five Superior Court judges supporting the request. Judge Freese noted that Circuit Judge Jeffrey Boles doesn’t believe there is a need for new magistrates.

Also at the meeting, Judge Nardi announced that he would not be running for re-election. He has been on the bench since 1983.

The commission set its next meeting for Sept. 15, which chairperson Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, noted would likely be their last meeting.

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  1. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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