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Lawmakers vote on COA panel, Lake County fee

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Both houses of the Indiana General Assembly took action on court-related legislation Thursday.

The Senate moved forward with Senate Bill 35, authored by Sen. Richard Bray, R-Martinsville, that would create a sixth Indiana Court of Appeals panel. No amendments were offered on the second reading Thursday, and it's expected to get a final third reading for adoption next week. If approved, this would be the first expansion since 1991 and would bump the number of intermediate appellate judges from 15 to 18 starting in January 2010.

Despite doubt that the bill would get enough support this session because of tough economic times and difficult budget balancing, the legislation that carries an estimated price tag of $1.3 in its first year and $2.2 million afterward is moving swiftly so far. SB 35 received unanimous consent from both the Senate's judiciary and appropriations committees.

If approved by the full Senate before its deadline to do so next week, the bill would move to the House of Representatives for consideration before the session concludes in late April.

Meanwhile, the House passed a bill that would add a $10 fee onto Lake County court cases to pay for the eventual construction of a centralized judicial center.

Lawmakers voted 53-41 in favor of House Bill 1435, authored by Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, which would establish a fund aimed at financing, constructing, and equipping a new facility in or near Crown Point. The fund for a consolidated judicial center comes on the heels of a 2007 study recommending many ways that the local government could be more efficient, including the idea of centralizing into one location.

If enacted, a $10 fee would be charged on any civil filing in Lake's Circuit or Superior courts, and in criminal cases where someone is convicted of an offense, required to pay a pretrial diversion fee, or found to have committed an infraction or ordinance violation.

With more than 100,000 cases filed in Lake County, this $10 fee could bring in an estimated $800,000 a year.

Rep. Charlie Brown, D-Gary, objected to the bill and said a centralized judicial center would disenfranchise residents far from Crown Point, particularly lower-income residents without adequate transportation options. Lawson told him that the city courts in Gary and Hammond would remain open, but Brown wasn't satisfied and voted against the proposal.

The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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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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