The State of: Part 3

320

The Circuit Court

By Judge Greg Coy

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 2013, the fifth full year of the Court.

In 2013, 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. There was one jury trial this year, State of Indiana v. Daniel Pierce. The costs for that trial included the following: per diem pay for jurors was $4,212; meals for jurors, $340; the total costs for the attorney appointed to represent Mr. Pierce, depositions taken by the attorney, fees for court reporting, are not included but since this was a Class A felony case the attorneys fees could reasonably be expected to exceed $5,000-$6,000. Mr. Pierce was found guilty by a jury of his peers and sentenced to 38 years, eight (8) of which are suspended; his current expected release date from imprisonment is September 4th, 2036. Mr. Pierce was also appointed an attorney for an appeal of his conviction, that attorney charged the county $1,248.

Essentially, 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. I believe the cost is actually less.

Cases Processed: In 2013, there were fewer new cases filed than in 2012. Only about 1,200 new cases of all types were filed; over 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, and in 2012 the number w as approximately 1,800. I am not able to explain why there have been so many fewer cases filed.

There are currently over 20 prisoners in the Indiana Department of Corrections and one (1) 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 daily 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.

Public Defender Fees: In 2013 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 we will see in 2014 is 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. I anticipate that we should receive an additional $8,000-$10,000 as a result of this change. This year we received over $50,000 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 Sublet, recently received an award for her work on behalf of children; our program is unique in the Southeastern Indiana area and other local courts are attempting to learn from our successes to set up a similar program in our neighboring counties.

Probation: In 2013 the Court has been putting 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 been giving non-paying parents the option of either paying their support every week or going to jail every weekend; as you can probably guess, almost every one has begun paying regularly instead of spending every weekend in jail.

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. It is my intention to run for the office again with the goal of serving the people of Switzerland County for another six years, and continuing to improve as a judge and the services provided by the Court. Although I am not allowed to comment on any pending case, if there are any questions, comments or general concerns, please feel free to contact me at gcoy83@yahoo.com.

– W. Gregory Coy, Judge

Switzerland Circuit Court