Sunday, February 22, 2009

The New Marion County Traffic Court

This morning's paper brings an article on the changes to traffic court in Marion County. Earlier this year, Judge Bill Young took the helm of the far eastside court. When he chose that assignment, it raised a few eyebrows. Judge Young is a seasoned criminal court judge, and for him to agree to preside over the far eastside court seemed like a voluntary demotion. The traffic court was formerly headed by a commissioner rather than an elected county judge like Young.

I personally like Judge Young and expect him to hand out justice fairly. What I do find objectionable though is his policy of imposing higher than normal fines on motorists who dare to challenge their ticket in court. If a person gets a ticket for speeding, for example, the fine could be $150 to $200. If that motorist challenges it in court and loses, Judge Young imposes a $400 fine plus $150 in court costs.

People should be allowed to have their day in court without fear of having a substantial penalty associated with doing so. The people who appear in this court mostly do so without any sort of legal representation. They are up against a prosecutor who does know the routine, including how to present witnesses and evidence. The deck is stacked against the motorist. To penalize that person for seeking justice seems wrong. I know it is done for the purpose of discouraging baseless challenges to tickets and clogging the docket, but in the process you are also penalizing people who have a legitimate defense and want a chance to present it to the court.

One change that is coming, however, will help out enormously. The court which is now located off 10th Street near Post Road is set to be relocated to a former T.J. Maxx store on the northwest side of town, just below Lafayette Square Mall. The court will be easily and quickly accessible from I-65. Attorneys who represent client will be able to get to the court in half the time they did when it was on East 10th Street. In addition, the added space cures a likely legal problem at the old place. Friends and families of defendants were often being excluded from the traffic courtroom. That almost certainly was a constitutional violation as both the Indiana and U.S. Constitution requires "public" trials, i.e. that the courtroom be open for anyone to attend. Only proceedings involving juveniles can be closed.


Unigov said...

Based on your article, I personally don't like Judge Young.

He's a petty tyrant. By imposing higher fines on those who challenge tickets, he has partially removed the assumption of innocence.

He should be removed from office.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Well, U, you have a point. While he might be fair in the presentation of evidence and making a decision, the threat of those penalties has a chilling effect on people's excercise of their right to take thei case to court.

Patriot Paul said...

Higher fines for those who challenge a ticket & lose is hardly equally applied justice. If the citizen actually wins the ticket case, who reimburses for that citizen's time and expense for coming down, bearing the burden of proof, and winning the case?

Diana Vice said...

There was a judge in Tippecanoe County who sentenced a guy to six months in jail for a minor offense. The guy was a first time offender, and during the sentencing the judge told the defendant that he was imposing the stiffest penalty allowed because he wasted the court's time by demanding a jury trial. The judge was turned into the disciplinary commission for violating the man's Constitutional right to a jury trial. The judge must have received a private reprimand, because he vacated his earlier sentence and replaced it with a more appropriate one. These low level judges with big egos think they're God on the bench.

Leslie Sourwine said...


Unfortunately Indianapolis and Marion County seem to have a score of low level and high level judges with big egos. How does a judge feel good about the job he’s doing dispensing justice when he sits on the bench over cases he clearly has a conflict of interest in? Any hint of a conflict of interest requires an ethical judge to recuse himself from the case. There never should be any doubt that justice is fairly being served. Some of the cases I sat in on and observed sure didn’t make me proud of our American Justice System that we brag around the world as being the best there is.

Leslie Sourwine definitely has a problem with judges, attorneys and members of city government that lack professional ethics and shirks their responsibility.

Anonymous said...

A good judge works in favor of the people, not in favor of the security forces. "Of the people, by the people, for the people". When the judiciary loses that perspective, it is time for them to go.

This judge needs to be thrown off the bench. Any member of the judicial system who doubles fines in order to assure that fewer challenges is not acting in a judicial manner. This is civil rights 101 and the judge is walking all over it. Young needs to go and he should be investigated immediately.

Gary R. Welsh said...

I've only challenged one ticket my whole life and it happened in that court several years ago. I will omit the judge's name. I was ticketed for an illegal left turn at the corner of Washington and Capitol during Black Expo weekend a few years ago. If you are familiar with that intersection, the turning lane on Washington doesn't start until a short distance from the intersection. On this particular day, it was nearly impossible to turn onto Capitol from Washington in that lane. At the instruction of a police officer in the middle of the intersection waving us from the second lane over, I followed two other cars onto Capitol, only to be waved over by a second cop who ticketed all of us. The cop who testified in court spoke as if it had happened the day before, even though the court date didn't take place for several months. He claimed there was very little traffic, no special event was taking place and that he had never motioned for me to turn from the wrong lane. When I confronted him with news reports about all of the tickets they had issued in that area during Black Expo and showed him that the date of my ticket coincided with Black Expo, he still insisted the traffic was light. The judge said she had no other choice than to find me guilty because I admitted I made an illegal left turn. She couldn't grasp the concept that I was simply following the cop's instructions. It was the worst possible form of entrapment. Of course she believed the cop even though I caught him lying about the traffic conditions and that Black Expo was taking place at the time he issued the ticket. I never told her I was an attorney, but it was all I could do to restrain myself from telling her what I really thought of her court. While I was waiting on my case, I saw the same thing play out over and over. A cop can completely lie and the judge will always believe him regardless of the ticketed person's story. She charged me a higher fine, too, because I challenged the ticket. I believe it about $175 at the time.

Leslie Sourwine said...


I've witness the judge on the bench assist the cop in lying in Marion Superior Court. The lie the cop told was an all out lie in an effort to convict a man of driving while barred when in fact the car he was alleged to have driven was blocked in and the man was laying in the seat installing a radio for his wife whom the car belonged to.

There is something terribly wrong with judges these days who dispense retaliation and intimidation in lieu of justice

Leslie Sourwine

Leslie Sourwine said...

A good judge with personal and professional ethics works to insure that the guilty are convicted and the innocent go free. What we are seeing is a rash of judges who actually are for the establishment. I’ve been following a lawsuit against a private corporation for civil rights violations and negligence. In every motion filed by the plaintiffs the judge has denied despite the overwhelming evidence that the corporation is guilty of all charges.
It’s not hard to understand how such judges get on the bench. Gus Puryear an attorney for the big Corrections Corporation of America was nominated by Bush to sit on the federal bench. The cases he would have seen the majority of would have been lawsuits filed by inmates against CCA a private prison industry who makes profits by denying critical medical care and providing substandard care. Inmates are unable to file a grievance because the system CCA has in place prevents them from even being able to obtain a form. Those who do manage to get a form find their forms handed right back to them or they find their way to the trash. This practice makes it apparent that CCA’s motto is if it’s not written or taped it didn’t happen. So in addition to blocking the grievance process they destroy tapes of inmates beating other inmates so there is no evidence it even took place. There have many inmates who have died at the hands of this corporation because of their neglect. So this corporation had a major interest in getting their attorney on the bench to throw out the cases against them.
I’ve seen enough to motivate me to seek an investigation of the practices of the judicial system in Indiana as well as do everything in my power to bring attention to the practices the judges make in their decisions from the bench and try to prevent them from being re-elected or appointed! They are just as guilty of violating civil rights as the coporation and the security forces.

Leslie Sourwine

Paul K. Ogden said...


The example you cite is why I think there may be a legal problem with imposing a harsher sentence on someone because they chose to go to trial. Unfortunately what you have happen a lot of times is that judges aren't particularly worried about whether what they're doing may be violating the law as the odds of someone ever appealing a $400 traffic ticket is remote.

I see it all the time. Trial judges flouting the law knowing they are unlikely to ever be challenged on a appeal because the litigants can't afford it.

varangianguard said...

The facts I was glad to learn was where the money went. Not surprisingly, both the courts (judges) and the police benefit directly from the monies acquired by traffic offenses.

If that isn't a red flag, I don't know what is.

Too many police are out spending too much time citing citizens for minor (but lucrative) offenses, instead of performing community policing or actually looking for criminal activity.

It appears that the Traffic Court has its own self-interest in mind, rather than to perform its assigned tasks judiciously.