At the outset, it should be recognized that Judge Young faced an enormous backlog of cases when he took over operation of the court. So part of his new approach to traffic court litigants is based on the very legitimate need to clear a congested docket. That, however, does not constitute violating the law in the process of doing so.
One of the first announcements you hear from the burly Deputy Sheriff in Traffic Court is that only the individual defendants can be in the courtroom, no friends, family members, etc.. The Deputy Sheriff warns you that if you are not a defendant and you are in "his courtroom" you will be arrested.
Not sure how the Deputy Sheriff came to own the courtroom, but, no, you can't close the courtroom. See Article I, Section 12 of the Indiana Constitution:
Section 12. All courts shall be open; and every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law. Justice shall be administered freely, and without purchase; completely, and without denial; speedily, and without delayThe only time a courtroom can be closed is when it is a juvenile proceeding.
As the defendants were filing into court they were warned by the Deputy Sheriff that if they chose to try their case instead of pleading guilty they could be fined up to an additional $500. Before the proceedings started, the deputy prosecutors were shuffling off the defendants to issue the same dire warning.
I am almost certain that you can't fine someone for taking their case to trial. You can impose reasonable court costs, but fining someone for taking their case to court? Highly doubtful. It could well violate the "excessive fines" clause of Article I, Section 16 and Article I, Section 12 as well as several other statutes and constitutional provisions.
I stayed and watched a couple of the brave souls who dared take their cases to court. One guy talked about how an unmarked car was following him for a long period of time. The guy felt like the other driver was tailgating him and harassing him. Finally, he flipped off the other driver, who turned out to be a police officer. The cop immediately turned on his lights and pulled him over for speeding...doing 65 in a 55 according to the ticket.
In his ruling in favor of the prosecution, Judge Young stated he had a "sworn officer" who testified that the man was speeding and that was enough for him. So does that mean whenever a citizen is testifying against a police officer, Judge Young is always going to side with the cop? News flash: police officers lie all the time in court. All people want is a fair trial and that is what they deserve.
In addition to the $149 traffic ticket, the man was fined an additional $300 by Judge Young.
Update: Channel 13 did a story on traffic court the evening after I posted this: http://www.wthr.com/global/story.asp?s=10310448