Court moves to TECH Center in 2022

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By Gregory Coy,

Judge of the Switzerland 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 for the year 2022.

  First and foremost, as many of the citizens of the community know, we have not been able to use the courtroom since October of 2021. The “old” part of the courthouse developed a mold issue and we were forced to stop using the courtroom for health concerns. As of the writing of this report, we are still not in the courtroom and I am now aware of when the courtroom will be available.

  We remained in our regular offices and used the jury room for hearings for a time; unfortunately the mold made its way to the “new” part of the courthouse, where our offices are located, and in May of 2022, we vacated those offices and moved into the Tech Center on West Seminary Street. Our offices have been cleaned and are habitable; however, my office, the clerk, and the prosecutor are still operating from the Tech Center; since we cannot hold hearings in the courtroom yet it just made better sense to stay where we are until the offices were we work and the place we hold hearings is in the same building.

  Despite all that, we held five jury trials this year, all in the Tech Center. I wish to express my deepest gratitude to the citizens who answered the call for jury duty.

  Since the pandemic, the court’s docket was behind much further than it might normally be; however, we have been able, with the help of the prosecutor’s office, defense lawyers, and individuals involved in civil cases, to “catch up” the docket somewhat, and we should be back to a normal number of pending cases in another year or so.

  We continue to use zoom to hearings in a number of cases. As I have reported in years past, the Sheriff’s Department — in most cases — no longer has to have an officer or jailer(s) escort prisoners to the courtroom for initial hearings and the like, which means the safety of the officers who bring prisoners to court is not endangered. It also provides more safety for the public who travel the same paths as prisoners to enter, leave and move around inside the courthouse (or in this case, the Tech Center). Some hearings are being held in person, depending on the type of case and the wishes and wants of the parties and or their lawyers.

  We continue to approach the drug problem we have in our county as aggressively as we can.

  When it comes to drug dealers, we sentence them to prison accordingly depending on the nature of the offense, the criminal history of the dealer, and the like. I have put on Facebook a list of prisoners in the Department of Corrections. Of the 48 individuals currently in the department of corrections serving time out of our county, eight are there for dealing methamphetamine. There may be others in the local jail charged with similar crimes awaiting trial.

  Also, of the 48 DOC inmates, 11 are there for convictions relating to crimes committed against children. It should be noted that some of those are the result of a “sting” operation by the Switzerland County Sheriff’s Department that did not involve an actual child.

  For those drug offenders whose crimes involve only possession or use rather than dealing, we always seek alternatives to jail in order to try and get the individual not to re-offend and hopefully stay out of jail. We have the support of 1Voice, which is a counseling and support group; we also are a part of the Southeastern Indiana Veteran’s Treatment Court, and we continue to seek grants and other funding to provide defendants with greater access to treatment and support for their addiction.  I wish to extend a personal thank you to Jeremy Eaton and DJ Disbro for their dedication to the mission of helping and supporting those suffering from an addiction, and to the Chief Probation Officer, Jeff Theetge, for all the effort he puts into the same goal.

  Courthouse security is one of my main concerns going forward.

  We are one of the few courthouses in the State of Indiana with no security at all. In my office, we have a walkie talkie to the Sheriff’s office if an emergency occurs. If we anticipate that we may have a security issue, Sheriff Morton has always been kind and provided as many deputies as needed to protect the court staff, myself, and those attending court. Unfortunately the world has become a violent, divided place, even in our small community; the safety of all the courthouse workers is something that should have been addressed before now.

  We had a gentleman from the Indiana Supreme Court perform a security assessment for the courthouse and make some recommendations regarding changes that might be needed. I intend to work toward seeing those changes are implemented in the coming year.

  I do want to take this opportunity to thank Monica Hensley and her staff for her outstanding work over the 14 years she has served as our county prosecutor. I have seen firsthand what a dedicated and fair public servant she is and am grateful for the opportunity to serve alongside her on behalf of our community. I wish her well in her future endeavors.

  I thank you for allowing me to continue to serve as your judge; I look forward to another productive year in the Court in 2022.  As always, 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.