Kara Kenney of Channel 6 news did a report on the court and wanted to interview me. So I met her at the court when I found out it would be in session.
The regular judge of the court, Dennis Pappenmeier, did not preside. I don't know if it was a coincidence or because because of the presence of WRTV or me or both, but administrative law judge John Krause arrived about 15-20 minutes late to preside over the court instead of Pappenmier. I know Pappenmier. Great guy but unlike Krause, Pappenmeier is not an attorney. Given the number of attorneys who are desperate for any employment these days, there is no reason to not have a non-attorney presiding as a judge anywhere, especially not in a city of over 800,000 people.
When the City announced the new parking violation court in a press release months ago, it gleefully warned that defendants who challenge their tickets would be facing a $2500 fine. To me it was reminiscent of Traffic Court where motorists enter with $150 tickets and walk away with fines of $449.50 or $549.50 if they dare ask for their day in court. (That's why we also named the Parking Violation Court in our injunction lawsuit against Traffic Court.) The Indiana General Assembly felt so adamant that motorists should not be fined for asking for their day in court that it overwhelmingly passed a law stripping traffic court of authority to fine motorists for choosing to go to trial. It was clear that the Parking Violations Court intended to go down the same path employing some hairbrained, fadish"Six Sigma" strategy to maximize parking fine revenue by threatening people with maximum fines should they ask for their day in court.
Today I heard what I believe was a Citation Services Collection (the company that runs the parking fine system in Indianapolis) employee tell the Channel 6 reporter that they've never fined anyone $2500. She did admit to the reporter though that they have assessed "court costs" of as much as $150 on top of the tickets most of which are $40.
Nothing though compared to what certainly appears to be a fatal flaw in the proceedings. ALJ Krause pointed out correctly that the City had the burden of proof and only had to prove its case by a preponderance of the evidence. The City attempted to meet this burden by having a person who I believe was a Citation Service Collection employee (not the one who handed out the ticket) read the ticket into the record. Then supposedly the burden switched to the defendant to counter that evidence.
Here is the problem. Without the person who wrote the ticket, the introduction of the ticket is hearsay. While hearsay is allowed in an administrative law proceeding, under Indiana law it cannot be the sole piece of evidence upon which a judgment is based. That is Administrative Law 101. If the City has nothing more than a CSC employee reading the ticket into the record, the ALJ should be finding in favor of every parking defendant. My guess is that our woefully inexperienced leadership at City Legal failed to instruct CSC on that little legal requirement which the failure to follow should invalidate every parking case decided in favor of the City.