Circuit Court finishes 2014 $50,000 under budget, returns funds to county coffers

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By Greg Coy,

Judge of Switzerland County Circuit Court

As Judge of the Switzerland Circuit Court, I would like to

submit to the citizens of Switzerland County the following

report on the activities of the Circuit Court in 2014, the fifth

full year of the Court.

In 2014, the Court was once again able to return money to

the County general fund out of our original budget.

The year ended with the Court about $50,000 under budget.

There are a number of reasons why we were able to be so far

under the original amount appropriated to us by the County

Council:

– There were far fewer criminal cases filed this year and

no jury trials, which means that the number of attorneys

appointed to represent people charged with crimes was down

substantially.

– There were no expenses paid for jury trials.

A single jury trial can be expensive when one takes into

account the amount paid for the attorney for the defendant, the

cost to pay jurors for each day they serve, the costs for meals

and mileage, and also the costs for an appeal if one gets filed.

A single trial can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000.

Since I don’t know at the beginning of the year how many

trials, if any, we are going to have, I have to appropriate

money to pay for them anyway. Therefore the low number of

criminal cases and lack of jury trials was the primary reason

we were under budget.

As I have stated in these reports in years prior, the most

important thing for the citizens of Switzerland County is that

having their own court does not cost more than when we

shared courts with Ohio and Jefferson counties. The cost to

the taxpayers continues to be less.

CASES PROCESSED

In 2014, there were approximately the same number of new

cases filed as in 2013.

About 1,200 new cases of all types were filed; nearly 1,400

were decided or otherwise disposed of, meaning a case either

had a judgment entered, was dismissed or otherwise concluded.

By contrast, in 2009, the total number of cases disposed

was 2,795; in 2010, the number was down to 2,206, in 2011

the total was down to 1,659, in 2012 the number was approximately

1,800, and in 2013 the number had been approximately

1,400.

2014 was an election year and beginning in 2015, I will

again be working with a new Sheriff (who is actually an old

Sheriff). Nathan Hughes will be resuming office again; I

worked with Sheriff Hughes when he held office previously,

and I believe he and I had an excellent working relationship,

and will continue to do so when he resumes office.

I do wish to thank Sheriff Roy Leap for his efforts over the

prior four years; he and his staff have always answered the call

and any needs of the Court when I have called, and I certainly

wish him well in his future endeavors.

I also will be working with a new Clerk. Gayle Sullivan will

be assuming that office on January 1st, and I will do anything

that I can to assist her in her duties and responsibilities. I also

wish to thank Kim Hambrick for her support as Clerk over the

last four years; she and her staff are always a pleasure to work

with and, like the Sheriff’s Department, are always supportive

of me whenever I need their help.

PUBLIC DEFENDER FEES

In 2014, the cost of paying for court-appointed lawyers

decreased again due primarily to a decrease in the total number

of criminal cases filed.

One change that occurred in 2014 was the receipt of additional

funds from the State of Indiana as reimbursement for

cases where lawyers were appointed to represent parties in

cases involving the Switzerland County Division of Children

and Families. We received over $15,000 in 2013 as a result of

this change. This year we received over $40,000 as reimbursement

from the State for Public Defender fees only – which is

nearly one-third of all fees we paid out.

GAL

Our guardian ad litem program (GAL) continues to serve

local children involved in difficult cases including custody

and visitation cases. Our program director, Carol Ann Sublett,

recently received an award for her work on behalf of children;

our program is unique in the Southeastern Indiana area and

other local court are attempting to learn from our successes to

set up a similar program in our neighboring counties.

PROBATION

In 2014 the Court continued to put more criminal defendants

on “reporting” probation, which means that a convicted

person has to report to the probation officer at least once per

month.

This also requires defendants to submit to unannounced

visits and drug screens; failure to pass a drug screen results in

immediate incarceration of that defendant for failing to abide

by the terms of their probation.

We are finding that more and more criminal defendants are

submitting “clean” screens, meaning they are drug free, to

avoid the possibility of jail time.

CHILD SUPPORT

We continue to devote a great deal of court time to child

support cases filed by the prosecutor’s office.

Although our collection efforts are resulting in a higher percentage

of support collection than most other counties in the

state, we still are dealing with some parents who are failing to

pay as ordered.

In many of those cases we have continued to order nonpaying

parents the option of either paying their support every

week or going to jail every weekend, and as before the child

support payments continue to roll in from those people.

*

I have now completed my first six-year term as your judge

and I could not be more thankful for the opportunity I have

had to serve. I do believe I have improved as a judge but I

am certain that I have more that I can do to better serve the

bench.

I look forward to serving in my next six year term which

begins January 1st, 2015. As always, I greatly appreciate

the opportunity to serve Switzerland County citizens as your

judge. I promise that my staff and I will continue to work to

improve the Court and the way it serves our County.

Although I am not allowed to comment on any pending

cases, if there are any questions, comments or general concerns,

please feel free to contact me at gcoy83@yahoo.com.