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Suit against traffic court sent back to state court

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A lawsuit against the Marion Superior traffic court over fees has been moved back to state court.

U.S. District Judge William T. Lawrence ordered to state court Toshiano Ishii, et al. v. Marion County Superior Court No. 13, et al., No. 1:09-CV-1509, a suit which claims Marion County Judge William E. Young violates residents' constitutional rights by imposing additional fees on those who unsuccessfully challenge their tickets and by closing proceedings to the public.

The plaintiffs filed the suit in Marion Superior Court No. 11 in December 2009. According to the suit, Toshiano Ishii appeared in traffic court to contest a ticket; he lost and was fined an additional $400. Matthew Stone was cited for improperly wearing a seatbelt. He wears it differently because of a pacemaker and chose not to challenge the ticket because of Judge Young's policy. Adam Lenkowsky asked to enter the courtroom as a member of the public and was denied entrance.

They claim when Judge Young took the bench in traffic court in 2009, he instituted a policy that defendants who come before his court and are found guilty would be fined up to an additional $500 and could even be assessed up to $10,000 plus court costs. The traffic courtroom is also open only to defendants and prevents parents of minors to be present during proceedings. The threat of these fines violates the federal and state constitutions, according to the suit.

The case was moved to U.S. District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division in late December at the city's request.

But attorneys want the case back in state court, so they voluntarily dismissed their federal claims. In the order entered Thursday by Judge Lawrence, merely doing that does not divest the federal court of subject matter jurisdiction over the case. The District Court had jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. Section 1367, which provides for the exercise of supplemental jurisdiction over claims based upon state law that are closely related to the federal claims in a case.

However, there is a presumption that a District Court judge will relinquish jurisdiction over any supplemental claim to the state courts once federal claims are removed. There are exceptions to that general rule, but none of those apply in the instant case, the judge continued.

Judge Lawrence ordered the case back to Marion Superior Court and also denied plaintiffs' request that defendants be sanctioned for suggesting that federal court still had jurisdiction over the case.

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