Judge must face federal lawsuit over drug court detentions

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Clark Circuit Judge Jerome Jacobi must face a federal lawsuit from drug court participants who allege they were improperly detained or unlawfully arrested as participants in the problem-solving court he oversaw.

Jacobi sought to be dismissed from the suit for lack of jurisdiction and for mootness because he no longer presides over the court. Jacobi also cited the doctrine arising from Younger v. Harris, 401 U.S. 37 (1971), that federal courts should abstain from enjoining certain ongoing state proceedings.

 “It is true, as Defendant asserts, that the Plaintiffs are, or have been, defendants in state criminal proceedings in Clark Circuit Court,” wrote Judge Sarah Evans Barker of the Southern District of Indiana. “The allegations they bring in this suit, however, are not roundabout challenges to the state charges against them or the validity of their convictions on those charges.

“Rather, Plaintiffs claim that the practices engaged in or countenanced by officials of the circuit court – periods of detention without due process of law and arrest by officials lacking arrest authority – violated their constitutional rights independent of Plaintiffs’ underlying guilt or innocence,” Barker wrote.

Baker denied Jacobi’s motion to dismiss in an order issued Friday in Destiny Hoffman, et al. v. Jermone Jacobi, et al.,  4:14-CV-00012. A magistrate judge certified the lawsuit as a class action in September.

“Defendant Jacobi has neither demonstrated that Plaintiffs’ claims against him in his official capacity are moot nor rendered a persuasive argument that our review of Plaintiffs’ claims as a whole should be barred by the doctrine of Younger abstention,” Barker wrote.

After the allegations of illegal detentions surfaced earlier this year, drug court participants sued. Clark County Drug Court operations were suspended, and the program was reinstituted on a probationary basis under Judge Vicki Carmichael. Jacobi lost his re-election bid in the Democratic primary in May.

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