COA affirms East Chicago judge’s request for more money

December 18, 2014

An East Chicago City Court judge carried her burden to establish that the $65,000 in requested funds were reasonably necessary, the Court of Appeals held Thursday in affirming the grant of her mandate request. The appellate judges also decided the city court is entitled to appellate fees and expenses.

In Gilda Orange, et al., Members of the Common Council of the City of East Chicago, Ind. v. Hon. Sonya A. Morris, 45A03-1310-PL-414, the Common Council of the city of East Chicago appealed Special Judge George Paras’ decision to grant City Court Judge Sonya Morris’ request that the city decrease the court’s 2013 budget by $83,000. Morris sought $65,000 to keep the court running. She testified that if she did not receive the money, the court would have to close as every one of her employees was necessary.

The Common Council’s position was that the city court’s budget reduction was warranted as many city services’ budgets were cut and that the court should make up any shortfall with probation user fees.

The COA found that the evidence establishes that the funds Morris requested were reasonably necessary for the city court operation. It also took issue with the council’s suggestion that probation user fees be used.

“It almost goes without saying that we do not support any scheme under which a court’s decision to impose probation is influenced, even in part, by the need to raise revenues,” Judge Cale Bradford wrote.

The judges also rejected the council’s claim that Morris’ complaint in mandamus should be denied because she did not file it under Trial Rule 60.5. But Bradford pointed out that based on Gary City Court v. City of Gary, 489 N.E.2d 511 (Ind. 1986), that city courts do not need to use Rule 60.5 as they are established and abolished by a city ordinance.

Finally, the Court of Appeals ordered the trial court to calculate how much in appellate attorney fees and expenses the city court is entitled to recover from the council.  



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