PLYMOUTH — Many chalk it up as a sign of the times, but whatever it is, it’s costing a lot of money.
While the economy mends itself slowly, business is booming in Marshall County courts and the Marshall County Council is dealing with ways to pay for it.
The situation is that as there is less money in the economy, there are more court cases. Many are seeking to recover money in small claims court and other venues. Criminal cases — especially those involving alcohol and drugs — are also on the increase.
In the normal year-end flood of additional appropriations and fund transfers to close the books on the previous year, Marshall County Superior Court I asked the Council for an additional appropriation of $10,000 in order to pay for court appointed attorneys for those who cannot afford them.
The request was hardly a surprise. Late in the spring and again during budget hearings in the late summer, Superior Court II Judge Dean Colvin had come before the Council warning that the work load of appointed lawyers for the court had dramatically increased to the point that extra lawyers were desperately needed to handle the case load. Correspondingly the money for those lawyers was running low.
During the Council session Monday Council members Judy Stone and Rex Gilliland assured the other members that Marshall County judges as a rule did not indiscriminately allow those accused in their courts to take advantage of the pauper counsel. Those claiming to be too poor to afford an attorney are routinely forced to prove their hardship to the judge’s satisfaction. In addition attorneys taking those cases in Marshall County are not as well paid as most others working as “pauper counsels” in the state of Indiana.
The Council allowed the additional appropriation and later had another similar request come up during fund transfers.
The increase of cases in Marshall County courts is resulting in another fiscal difficulty. The courts had numerous transfer requests from various line items in their budget in order to pay for overtime costs incurred due to the increase in cases.
In other business:
• The Council voted to increase the Innkeeper’s Tax in Marshall County from 3 percent to 5 percent. The tax is paid by those who stay in hotels around the county and the funds are used for the budget of the Marshall County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
• The Council approved the hiring of a mechanic for the Highway Department to replace a retiring employee.