Marion Superior Juvenile Judge Marilyn Moores gave her colleagues several colorful expressions of her exasperation with the continuing rise in Child in Need of Services cases at the court’s executive committee meeting Friday.
Moores asked judges to approve funding for an additional bailiff and court reporter to deal with case filings she said have increased more than 40 percent compared to the prior year. Along the way, she complained to the Marion Superior Executive Committee about the “highly touted but piece of s--- Odyssey (case management) system” provided by the state and activated in Marion County’s civil courts this year.
When Marion Superior Judge Jose Salinas suggested the increase in case filings may be due to the increasing number of Department of Child Services caseworkers assigned to Marion County, Moores fired back, “What the hell do you know about case managers?” Salinas replied he knew a lot about the subject.
Executive Committee Chairman Judge David Certo offered several possible future solutions and said judges support additional funding for juvenile court, but he said there wasn’t much the committee could do in the short term. “It’s an inopportune time in our budget cycle to be talking about adding people.”
Along with other juvenile court judges, Moores has cited heroin use as the driving force behind the explosion in CHINS filings. The rise in these cases statewide and new juvenile court rules requiring representation of children in certain juvenile proceedings means several million dollars more in state funding will be needed for juvenile courts.
“I’m telling you these are not B.S. cases,” Moores said of the CHINS petitions. She cited “heroin babies” and a pregnant 13-year-old who had been raped by her father as examples of the kinds of cases she’s seeing. “There’s a crisis in this community,” she said.
Judge John Chavis said the courts need to speak with a unified voice to the Legislature to make sure court staffing is sufficient to meet needs. “We need to up the ante and put pressure on people,” he said.
Moores told judges she would not be requesting staff help if her court wasn’t severely strained. “You know me, I’m not a whiner,” she said. “I’m a b----, but I’m not a whiner.”
Separately, the Executive Committee approved a request to allow the county’s probation department to vary from Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard’s efforts to increase electric vehicles in the city’s fleet.
Probation staff said they had obtained three Chevrolet Volts and a charging station to replace vehicles, but the department budget couldn’t afford the $10,000-per-vehicle annual cost. “That’s an enormous amount of money, and you’re not going to save that much by having electric cars,” said Sue Patterson, director of finance for Marion Superior Courts.
Another problem probation staff cited with the cars was the need to return them in the middle of the day as their charges wound down, cutting into their actual time for field visits.
The committee agreed to authorize the purchase of three conventional economy vehicles to replace the Volts. Probation staff estimated those cars could be purchased for around $17,000 each.