8 more claim abuses in suspended Clark County drug court

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Eight new plaintiffs have been added to a federal civil-rights lawsuit claiming officials involved in Clark County’s suspended drug court program jailed participants for months without due process, conducted improper searches and made unauthorized arrests.

The filing brings the number of claimants to 16, and that number is likely less than half of those expected to ultimately join the proposed class-action litigation, according to the suit.

The amended complaint in Destiny Hoffman, et al. v. Judge Jerome Jacobi, et al., 4:14-CV-12, alleges civil-rights abuses in the problem-solving court that was suspended by the Indiana Judicial Conference in Feburary. It’s the first time the state has taken such action against a problem-solving court.

Destiny Hoffman spent 154 days in the Clark County Jail after she provided a diluted drug screen, and her improper detention led to the discovery that numerous drug court participants had been wrongly jailed for extended periods without a hearing or representation of counsel. Others claimed drug court staff had conducted unauthorized searches or come to their homes and illegally arrested them, at gunpoint in at least one claimed instance.

Of the eight plaintiffs added to the suit before U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in the Southern District of Indiana, New Albany, seven allege they were jailed without a hearing or the presence of counsel for periods ranging from 18 days to 89 days. One plaintiff claims she was twice improperly jailed – once for 58 days and another time for 59 days.

One of the newly added plaintiffs alleges that in addition to being improperly jailed for 54 to 59 days, he also was illegally arrested by drug court staff at his home.

Clark Circuit No. 2 Judge Jerry Jacobi had presided over the drug court program. After it was suspended, the Judicial Center approved a conditional arrangement in which existing participants’ cases were transferred to Clark Circuit No. 4 Judge Vicki Carmichael.

The drug court has not been permitted to accept new cases, however.

The litigation filed by Louisville attorney Mike Augustus also seeks certification of four classes of drug court plaintiffs:

  •   Those jailed more than 72 hours without due process;
  •   Those on probation from the drug court who are alleged to have violated its rules or policies;
  •   Those arrested by drug court staff who lacked arrest powers between Feb. 18, 2012, and the date of class certification, and;
  •   Those who are or will be subject to arrest by drug court staff who have no arrest powers.

The suit alleges the actions of the drug court violated participants’ rights under the Fourth, Fifth, Eighth and 14th amendments.  

There were approximately 60 to 70 drug court participants in the program when it was suspended and then granted conditional authority.

“The precise number of class members is unknown at this time but is expected to well exceed 40,” the complaint says of those who may have been improperly jailed more than 72 hours.


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