The municipal court system in Gary is facing a caseload that far exceeds the number of all pending cases in other city and town courts in northwestern Indiana's Lake County.
There are more than 200,000 pending cases in Gary, according to state records and court officials, The (Northwest Indiana) Times reported. Almost 83,000 of those cases are traffic infractions.
Judge Deidre R. Monroe noted that the city's high unemployment rate means people are unable to pay fines right away, so their cases stay open longer.
But the judge noted that over the last 10 years, the number of pending cases has dropped by 60,000 as the court, clerk and prosecutor's office in Gary "have worked together to dispose of more cases than are filed in that particular year."
Prosecutor Bernard Carter said another problem is the court's lack of Courtview, a computerized case management system. The city clerk's office said it doesn't have the money for the system and is looking at adopting a free system.
The court has initiated an amnesty court with the city clerk and prosecutor's office to reduce the backlog, Monroe said. During that court session, which is held twice a month, people who turn themselves in can get a warrant lifted. A similar traffic amnesty program allows a defendant to get two tickets dismissed after paying for one, Monroe said.
The city court may eventually be absorbed by the Lake Superior Court. Still, Gary City Council President Ron Brewer says he fears the number of pending cases would rise if that happens.