News and Tribune

March 10, 2014

Clark County Council, court make a deal

Mediation agreement splits costs for mandated probation officers

By MATT KOESTERS
matt.koesters@newsandtribune.com

JEFFERSONVILLE — The Clark County Council agreed to pay for one of two probation positions mandated by Judge Vicki Carmichael in November 2013, but it got the probation department to agree to pay for the other.

The council voted to approve a mediation agreement between itself and Circuit Court No. 4 in which the council would allow for the creation of positions for an adult probation officer and a juvenile probation officer. The adult probation officer’s salary will be paid out of probation user fees, while the juvenile probation officer will be paid out of the county’s general fund.

“I think it’s great,” Carmichael said. “We worked hard together and came up with something that I think is agreeable to both sides.”

The mediation agreement, which is dated Feb. 26 and signed by all parties, includes several other provisions of note. Among the terms was a requirement that Carmichael make a public statement in support of a study regarding the efficiency of the unified Clark Circuit Court and probation system by the National Center for State Courts, the agency that conducted the study that led to the unification of Clark County’s superior courts with the circuit court. Carmichael made that statement at Monday’s council meeting, but warned that the result of the audit could mean the addition of more judicial officers, citing an annual weighted caseload study issued by the Indiana Judicial Center.

“What they have said is some of our courts are operating on what two or three courts would do, maybe almost four,” Carmichael said. “... So when you look at all those numbers, their low estimate is that we need nine judicial officers, and their high estimate is that we need 12. We have six, when you count our two magistrates.”

The salaries of judges and magistrates are paid by the state, but the salaries of support staff, such as court reporters and bailiffs, are paid locally. Council Vice President Brian Lenfert said while that is a concern for the council, it’s likely that the state would increase the county’s maximum levy to accommodate the additional expenses.

Neither Carmichael nor council President Barbara Hollis could speak to whether or not Judges Jerry Jacobi or Joe Weber supported such a study. Circuit Court No. 1 Judge Dan Moore has declared his support.

The terms also called for Circuit Court No. 4 to use its best efforts to refer qualified defendants to Clark County Community Corrections.

“I think the council has been under some concern that Clark County Community Corrections was not being utilized to its full capacity by all of the courts, and I told them I would certainly look into that and use my best efforts to use Community Corrections as I have in the past,” Carmichael said. “I think other people that need to be approach about that — and I talked to the council about that — are the prosecutor and the defense bar, because they are the ones that obviously can make those agreements and make those recommendations to the court.”

“The numbers have gone down, and that was a concern for the council,” Hollis said.

Hollis said that the other items agreed to in the mediation agreement not directly related to the issue of the two probation positions was relevant to the council because of its role as the county’s fiscal body.

“The council is the financial [body], and I think everything in there has to do with the financing of the court systems overall, including probation, so I think it was very relevant,” Hollis explained.

The mediation fees and Circuit Court No. 4’s attorneys fees will be paid by the council, per the agreement. The cost of those fees was not immediately available.