Thursday, February 18, 2010

Traffic Court Bill Clears Another Hurdle

The Traffic Court bill, Senate Bill 399 authored by State Senator R. Michael Young, cleared another hurdle yesterday passing out of the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee.

The bill was offered by Sen. Young after he was contacted by a constituent concerned about the fines being imposed by Judge William E. Young of the Marion County Traffic Court against people who simply wanted their day in court. The same constituent had first contacted his westside councilor on the Indianapolis City-County Council, Marilyn Pfisterer, who is now the Council Vice-President. According to the constituent, Councilor Pfisterer asked for some information about the case, even talked to Judge Young, but the situation was not addressed until Sen. Young took up the constituent's cause.

The bill will place lower caps on fining motorists who try their tickets, with the caps increasing if the individuals have had other tickets that they challenged unsuccessfully. If the bill passes, Judge Young's practice of increasing $150 traffic tickets to $449.50 or $549.50 across the board when those motorists ask for their day in court will be stopped.

Several motorists testified before the Committee about their experiences in Marion County Traffic Court. This included not only the practice of fining people for asking for their day in court, but also the courtroom being closed to the public (in direct contravention of the Indiana Constitution), the threats by the bailiff to arrest and incarcerate people who "trespass" in "his" courtroom, the refusal to allow people to be permitted to take medication or go to the bathroom and return to the courtroom.

One woman who testified was going to be a witness for her husband. She is a transplant patient who had spent more than a year in the hospital and wears a mask because her immune system wasn't working properly. Despite her health problems, the bailiff forced her to wait outside in the middle of February until her husband's case was called. At the hearing, the couple tearfully related the story including that when it came time for the testimony of the woman, the Judge refused to listen to her testimony. The man's ticket was increased from $150 to $549.50.

Another witness testified that she was forced to wait in the hallway for five hours until her case was called. The court staff would not provide her a chair and she had to nurse an infant standing up, in the public hallway. She reported that the Bailiff had warned people of the consequences of using the bathroom during the proceeding - that they would be locked out of the courtroom and possibly get a warrant issued for a failure to appear. In fact, I have talked to someone who had an arrest warrant issued because she went to the bathroom.

Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals on the Committee, were united in their outrage about not only fining people for asking for a trial but all of the the goings on in the Marion County Traffic Court. The bill passed 10-0 with many representatives calling for a letter to be sent to Chief Justice Randall Shepard asking for an investigation of the practices of the court.


varangianguard said...


Diana Vice said...

Did the local media report on this or did their political connections get in the way? This bum should be thrown out of office!

Paul K. Ogden said...

DV, the Star has done a pretty good job reporting on this story. They did a front page story about the bill, they covered the filing of the lawsuit. They have even done an update or two - at least on Murry'as blog - about the progress of the bill. Unfortunatley there are only so many reporters and the Star has so cut back on pages, there isn't a lot of room in the paper.

Cato said...

What can be done to get Young (the bad one) removed from the bench?

It doesn't get worse than him. He would have been at home hearing cases brought to him by the KGB. He represents a government at war with its people.

Shepard needs to do something painful and noisy to him.

zucan said...

Although Sen Young's bill is a good start to reeling in Judge Young, it does not address the real problem.

I also appeared before Judge Young for a 'speeding in school zone' ticket. The officer said that radar showed me doing 42 miles per hour in the zone. I don't know my actual speed, but if I had actually been doing 42, the officer would either be dead or gravely injured. (He jumped out in front of my car to wave me to the curb. If I had been doing 42, I would never have been able to avoid hitting him.)

I did not even bother to present that as a defense in Judge Young's court. I didn't because according to the ordinance that establishes school zones, I wasn't in a legal school zone anyway.

Judge Young elected to disregard what the ordinance says and made up some law of his own to be able to find me guilty.

This jerk-wad has to go and the sooner the better!

My case was the third heard that day. In the first case the defendant explained to the Judge what took place. From the officer's testimony and the defendant's testimony it was clear that the defendant was a victim of circumstance and poor road engineering.

The Judge listened and then told the defendant that he did one "do over" a day. And that he was going to let this defendant take advantage of his "do-over." In other words he made it clear to the defendant that he was going to find him guilty but that if the defendant withdrew his defense and admitted to the infraction it would cost him less.

Doesn't that sound like something you would see on The Dukes of Hazzard? The other two dozen members of the Marion County bench should initiate what ever is necessary to rid themselves of the bad light this idiot is putting them in.

When you have to start passing laws to protect the citizenry from one judge, it is past time to get rid of that judge.

Downtown Indy said...

Young is not a 'judge', he's an 'accounts-receivable manager.'

Paul K. Ogden said...

Marion County has a unique judicial election system. Both parties put up an equal number of candidates every two years (except one two year cycle when no judges are up such as the case this year).
ALL of the Republican and Democratic judicial candidates who are nominated are automatically elected at the general election, unless of course a Libertarian can sneak in which hasn't happened yet.

Indy Student said...


I've noticed that too. The maximum amount to vote for is usually the same as the # of judges on the ballot.

So what would happen if Young's name was skipped when people voted?

geekmug said...

Paul, I have been following your blog ever since I first heard about your class action. But, I have one question to which I can't seem to find the answer. Aren't all of the cases heard by Young subject to Indiana's Rules of Trial De Novo, whereby anyone who plead not guilty can automatically have their case reheard in a Marion County Circuit Court after an adverse judgment?

Marycatherine Barton said...

I wish the Indianapolis Star was still locally owned, not by Gannett.