Switzerland Circuit Court Judge W. Gregory Coy has again releases statistics and information regarding how his court operated over the past year.
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 2012 – the fourth full year of the Court.
In 2012, the Court was once again able to return money to the County General Fund our of our original budget. The year ended with the Court about $44,500 under budget. Our expenditures for appointed lawyers was up this year primarily due to a large number of civil cases in which parties requested attorneys where custody and child support were at issue.
There were no jury trials this year.
I did have to approach the County Council for an additional appropriation in order to purchase new recording software for the courtroom; the amount we needed and received was approximately $4,300. I would again assure the citizens of this county that it does not cost them any more to have their own court than it did to share courts with Jefferson and Ohio counties – as we did up to the year 2008.
In 2012, there were nearly 1,500 new cases of all sorts filed, including: civil, criminal, juvenile, infractions, and other miscellaneous cases. Over 1,800 cases were disposed, meaning a case either had a judgment entered; was dismissed; or otherwise concluded. In 2009, the total number of cases disposed was 2,795; in 2010 the number was down to 2,206; and in 2011 the total was down to 1,659. The number of criminal cases filed did increase slightly in 2012.
Right now, there are 23 prisoners in the Indiana Department of Corrections and one in a federal penitentiary whose sentences include, in whole or in part, incarceration as a result of crimes committed here in Switzerland County. Our local jail continues to house prisoners with Switzerland County cases – as well as prisoners whose cases arose in other counties – on a daily basis for which the Sheriff receives payment from those other counties.
These payments, which amount to several hundred thousand dollars, continue to be an excellent source of funds that are used to pay for the cost of staffing and running our jail and provide a direct benefit to the taxpayers of this county.
The Switzerland County prisoners are close to the court and are brought over by the Sheriff’s department at a moment’s notice when needed. They are also close in proximity to their attorneys, and we as taxpayers have a state-of-the-art jail in which we can place prisoners at a reasonable cost without incurring an increase in our property taxes.
PUBLIC DEFENDER FEES
In 2012 the cost of paying for court appointed lawyers increased, I believe primarily due to an increase in the number of cases involving children. In those cases, I appoint lawyers for a parent, guardian, or in some cases for the child.
In 2013 I intend to be more diligent in cases where a parent seeks an attorney in a case where the court may be able to assist the parents in resolving issues such as visitation times/dates, and to hopefully control the cost to the taxpayers in such cases.
Our county continues to receive reimbursement from the State of Indiana for fees paid in certain types of criminal and juvenile cases out of our local funds. That annual reimbursement averages around $55,000.
We also require some criminal defendants to reimburse the taxpayers for their attorney’s fees if the court determines they are not indigent and they have the ability to pay. The exact amount we receive for that is hard to determine, but is probably in the $10,000-$15,000 range, conservatively.
GUARDIAN AD LITEM
One thing that the Switzerland Circuit Court does that is somewhat unique is that we have an outstanding CASA/GAL program.
CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate”, and GAL stand for “Guardian Ad Litem”.
The program includes volunteers who are appointed to represent the interests of children in all sorts of cases, including children of divorce, paternity cases, delinquency, and cases involving children in need of services (cases where local department of families and children have determined that children are being neglected or abused). Our neighboring counties do not have the type of program that we have. Our program administrator is Carol Ann Sublett, who oversees the training of volunteers, applies for grant funds that are used to pay for the costs of running the program, expenses for the volunteers, etc.
A GAL can get to know a child and report to the court the needs/concerns of that child, without putting the child through the sometimes traumatic experience of coming to court and speaking to a judge whom they have never met. The program requires a number of dedicated volunteers to be successful, something we (thankfully) have here in Switzerland County.
Finally, as I reported last year, we have put a great deal of effort into assisting parents in the collection of children support. Again in 2012, our county was one of the leading in the state in the percentage of support collected in relation to the amounts owed and previously paid. This is a continuing benefit of having a full time court.
There is still an alarming number of people to whom a large amount of back support may be owed, but we will continue to work toward getting those payments.
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 and the way it serves our County.
Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions.