By Greg Coy, Judge of the
Switzerland County Circuit Court
As Judge of the Switzerland County Court, I would like to submit to the citizens of Switzerland County the following report on the activities of the Circuit Court for the year 2015.
In 2015, 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 $39,000 under budget. The reasons for this are primarily as follows: there were only two jury trials this year, so the amount appropriated for pettit juror fees have over $10,000 remaining; deposition costs and the costs of transcribing hearings and trials for appeals were over $9,000 under what was appropriated; there were fewer psychological evaluations of defendants, and there were far fewer juveniles detained over the course of the year.
The number of criminal cases filed was up, however.
There were two jury trials. The first was the case of State vs. White in late April. Ms. White was convicted of Class A Felony Child Molesting. She did not appear for her trial and a warrant was issued for her arrest. She has not yet been apprehended. When she is apprehended and brought before the Court, she will be facing a sentence of 20-50 years. The cost of jurors fees, mileage, and meals for the jurors was $2,650 for the two day trial.
Ms. White also incurred substantial attorney fees paid by the taxpayers while her case was pending.
The second trial was the case of State vs. Green in October of 2015. Mr. Green was convicted of Operating a Vehicle as an Habitual Traffic Violator, and sentenced to six years on in-home detention. The total cost of that two day trial was $2,531. Again, the cost of a trial is greater when the fees paid to a public defender are factored in, but overall costs for jury trials in 2015 were relatively low.
In 2015, there were approximately the same number of new civil cases filed as in 2014, but the number of criminal cases increased. Without being able to put an exact percentage on it, it would appear that drug-related filings are up.
The number of new criminal felonies filed was 113, and the number of misdemeanors was 168. A total of 86 felony cases were decided, and 177 misdemeanors. This does not necessarily include the number of probation violations filed, which, due to the increase in drug activity in our county, would appear to be up.
In 2015 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 a 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.
In 2015 Switzerland County was the highest in the State in terms of percentage of child support collected versus the total amount owed. The Court devotes nearly a day of court time every week to child support collection cases, working in conjunction with the Prosecutor’s office child support collection arm.
Unfortunately, this does not mean we have been able to eliminate cases where there are large child support arrearages. We still must work to improve our child support collection efforts on behalf of all families who struggle in our county where child support is not paid in full or not paid regularly by those obligated to do so.
Essentially, this is an ongoing struggle that we will continue to deal with aggressively as long as I am in this office.
AREAS OF CONCERN
There are several, but two stand out to me.
There appears to be an increase in the number of controlled substances available illegally in the county, whether they are prescription medications sold illegally or manufactured drugs and synthetics. The types of drugs being used are more dangerous than ever. Even though here in Switzerland County our drug issues have not reached epidemic levels like those in Scott County and other counties around the State, such an epidemic remains a possibility for us if we do not work toward finding solutions to this situation.
A second, and more alarming concern, is the number of drug-exposed babies being born to parents here in Switzerland County and in our surrounding counties. Children such as these are almost certain to be removed from their parents immediately, but that does not begin to solve the problem.
Healthcare costs for such children are enormous; there are a limited number of foster homes in which to place said children; and the ability of those professionals to counsel parents regarding drug use, child rearing, and job seeking are limited.
Regrettably, I point these issues out without being able to offer any hard facts and fast solutions. All of us as citizens of this county will need to become more aware of the problems and work together toward finding answers to these and other difficult problems.
I thank you for allowing me to continue to serve as Judge. I look forward to another productive year in the Court in 2016. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org