Wednesday, December 20, 2006

More on Small Claims Court Judge's Suit Against Drummer

The Indiana Law Blog has posted a copy of the complaint attorney Norman Reed filed on behalf of Center Township Small Claims Court Judge Paula Lapossa (D) against Center Township Trustee Carl Drummer (D) for interfering in the court's hiring decisions and failing to provide adequate court space and supplies to operate the small claims court, which has more than 11,500 litigants who annually utilize the court.

According to the complaint, it has been the practice of the court to pay a pro tempore judge $100 per court session since 2002. Although the Trustee's office paid the pro tempore judge on numerous occasions until this year, he stopped making payments for the pro tempore judge's services in 2006. The newly-elected small claims court judge, Michelle Scott, is the pro tempore judge who Drummer has refused to pay. He has refused to pay her $2,200 according to the complaint, as well as a language interpretor the court pays $100 per session to help with non-English-speaking litigants. Lapossa is seeking an order against Drummer to pay the fees owed to the pro tem judge and the interpretor.

The complaint lays out grievances it has with Drummer's handling of court personnel. It notes that the small claims court judge is responsible for the court employees' conduct under the Code of Judicial Conduct. The Trustee, however, hires court clerks without consulting the judge on the person's qualifications, training, promotion or discipline.

Judge Lapossa complains that one of the court's clerks sought a seat on the city-county council after informing Drummer but without notifying her. The employee did not believe she had to advise Judge Lapossa of her activities because she believed her employer was the trustee and not the court. Judge Lapossa insisted Drummer transfer the employee out of her court because of the obvious violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct posed by the employee's campaign. Drummer refused to take Lapossa's word that the employee's conduct violated the Code. He refused to transfer the employee until Lapossa produced a written opinion on the issue from the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Lapossa is seeking an injunction to prevent Drummer from hiring, supervising and disciplining the court's clerks and a declaratory judgment holding that she as the small claims court judge has such power.

Lapossa also complained that Drummer made her draft a letter specifying a clerk's failure to perform her job before he would consider disciplinary action against her. "With a caseload of nearly 12,000 cases each year, the Court does not have the time to comply with such demands of the Trustee," the complaint reads. She complains that the trustee "failed to provide the court with proper equipment." As an example, she says the Trustee replaced a "malfunctioning printer" with a "used printer." The Trustee refused to provide the court with a check printer for payment of garnishment orders, a label printer for labeling files and office dividers to provide some privacy for court employees. The Trustee does not consult the court in preparing its budget, or allow it to present a budget to the township board.

The complaint raises the issue of inadequate court space for housing the court's six clerks, bailiff, supplies, files, court room, office space and judge's private office. The court is currently furnished 1,615 square feet in the basement of the City-County Building. The space is inadequate, according to Lapossa, to provide court personnel "with productive office space" or "conference space to engage in discovery or resolve disputes" like every other small claims court in Marion County. The complaint seeks an order allowing the court to order its own equipment and supplies for payment by the Trustee.

Lapossa's complaint relies on the separation of powers doctrine in support of her claim that the Trustee is interfering in the ability of the court "to operate independently, freely and with absolute integrity." The complaint cites a 1966 Supreme Court decision, Carlson v. State, for the proposition that the Trustee cannot withhold funds to hamper and interfere with the small claims court.

It's interesting that Drummer is being so tight with money when it comes to the small claims court, which is largely self-supporting because of the fees paid by litigants, but he has plenty of money for all his pet projects. An IBJ investigative story last month disclosed the fact that Drummer has amassed over $12 million in real estate, which is largely unused or used for purposes other than carrying out the township's statutory duties. The IBJ report also disclosed that Center Township is sitting on over $11 million in a bank account.

It makes no sense for the township to continue paying rent to the county to lease the inadequate space in the City-County Building when it could have easily accommodated the court by relocating it to the Julia Carson Government Center. Instead, Drummer illegally leased out space to political cronies, which could have been used by the court, so they could put a bar in the government center. When do people finally say enough with Drummer and call for his removal from office? And isn't it about time for Prosecutor Carl Brizzi to announce some findings of his own investigation into the Center Township Trustee's Office?

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your last two paragraphs said it all Gary.

And yet (to borrow words from Wilson) "... was re-elected by a 3-1 margin" and obviously corruption is a "mandate of the people". People tend to elect their own kind of people so I guess Center Township is a bunch of thieves and crooks? Nah. It's just the blind 'Rat loyalty. People vote for the 'Rats and have no clue who is on the ballot.

Anonymous said...

How convenient. Hail saved me the trouble of reading a lame Wilson defense.

Stick to the story at hand. Drummer's actions are reprehensible. They don't qualify as grounds to remove him from office.

If Trustee Drummer (that's the way he is addressed in his office)performs one official act that justifies his pay or his executive existence, please point it out, Wilson. It's not poor relief, which is delivered at a snail's pace and for about $2 or more for every dollar delivered.

Again, this entire matter wouldn't surface if Rep. Carson had the power she once had.

And, to save erstwhile young Erin the trouble, yeah, that is the common view among Democratic precinct people and others.

That same Dem crowd has known Paula for decades. She is reasonable and level-headed. Not always right, but always fair. Quiet, even.

Not the opinion of the rarified air around All Things Carson, but it is out there. In abundance.

Anonymous said...

While painful to admit, it is becoming increasingly difficult and embarassing to vote "D" in Center Township.

Wilson46201 said...

For the record, the Repuke (kudos to hailstone for stupid namecalling) candidate for Center Township Small Claims Court Judge is still delinquent on her property taxes even after being called out for it. She must have really, really needed that salary! But blind party loyalty got 1/4th of the voters to pick her nevertheless...

For that matter, the Repuke candidate for Trustee was a "Financial Advisor" who has several interesting recent lawsuits against her. Doesn't the GOP do a simple CivicNet or Google search on their sacrificial lambs? Sheesh!

Wilson46201 said...

To quote longtime Republican party leader Rex Early: "It's a mighty thin pancake that doesnt have two sides!" AdvanceIndiana has read the plaintiff's complaint but has yet to read the brief from the defendant. There's an awful lot to this story that has yet to be told. As the Center Township Clerk for some of the period in question, all I will say is that I am astounded and amused by the lawsuit.

Erin said...

Anon- let me explain a couple things to you:

1. Reread my posts. I have not attacked Judge LoPossa. I know her and have a great deal of respect for her. I also am extremely concerned about the pro tem judge and (in partic) the translator not being paid. That is inexcusable to me in terms of resources citizens need to have a fair trial- or any interaction with a court. Finally, if you bothered to read anything I wrote- you would notice that I said that this is a real issue that needs to be addressed.

2. Your logic of attacking Julia Carson is simply bizarre on this issue. Judge LoPossa has done just fine notwithstanding her issues with Carl Drummer. Nobody has been out to get her. More importantly, the pro tem judge involved in this case was ELECTED to replace Paula and SUPPORTED by Paula AND the entire D establishment. So, apparently, the claims that the Congresswoman and her 'mafia' are out to get everyone who disagrees with Carl D are so obviously not in accord with the election results that you decide....hmmm...it's a reason to critisize the Congresswoman? Zero evidence of interference, support for a qualified, experienced new judge, and zero evidence of any retaliation against the soon to be new judge for her disagreement with Carl- leads to conspiracy! Brilliant.

3. Not only am I and my entire family long time D precinct committeepeople- I also am using my real name on this blog. If you had any idea how "out of touch" with reality YOU are regarding precinct committeepeople's feelings about the Congresswoman, the first clue might be your incorrect assumptions re: my age, my involvement with D's all over the county, my cynicism....

If you are going to post anonymously on a Republican blog about how D's feel and attack the Congresswoman while claiming to be a D- that isn't how the game is played. Try not to be so obvious- Erin calls Bullshit!

Anonymous said...

For that matter, the Repuke candidate for Trustee was a "Financial Advisor" who has several interesting recent lawsuits against her

OK. Fine. Next time we'll a whole mess of SLAPP suits against your candidates then say "Hey look! Look at who is being sued!"

Glass houses and all.

Anonymous said...

Erin, honey, you do not know whereof you speak, at least in some respects. Especially wiht regard to rank-and-file Democrats' feelings. Way, wayyyyy out of otuch.

It's that simple.

And, again...anonymous for a reason. The daggers are just too long and ridiculous.

But, this much is true: I wish I could use my name. Hopefully, someday...soon.

And, who said this was strictly a Republican blog? That's not been my experience. Conservative on many issues, yes...but this blogmeister has called out the Repubs on multiple issues.

Wilson46201 said...

Erin - I'm sure that 'anonymous' didn't find May to be too merry...

Erin said...

Anon,

Give it up. Yes, there are D's who don't like Julia Carson, D's that don't like Bart and D's that don't like Evan, they are the minority. If you claimed to be such a D, maybe I'd beleive you, but, to claim to speak of the majority of D precinctpeople? Bullshit ad nauseum. I, too, could post anonymously as an R and refer to Daniels as the Mini-Guv (well known D nickname) and how I know all these R's who hate him- I don't, that is stupid and juvenile.

Your daggers comment is even more telling.

This isn't an R blog? Anon, YOU ARE NOT A DEMOCRAT. Granted, AI is pretty fair and points out negatives on R's, but, don't even try to claim this isn't a site for R's. The fact that you even made that statement is so hilarious given it was right after claiming that I am out of touch with D's. Get a clue.

If, perchance, you are one of the minority disgruntled D's, I'm sure I will see you at one of the myriad of Christmas parties, come find me, since surely you know who I am. I promise not to out you. I seriously doubt you will be there though.

Anonymous said...

Carl Drummer owned IRS $25,000 when he was elected. The dumpster diver should report on all of his Democrat pals. They are not without bills and unpaid liens.

Sick of You said...

Wilson get your own blog please!

Wilson46201 said...

I am "Sick of You" "Anonymous" commenters making unproven slanders while hiding behind fake names. Cheap shots from shady characters!

Anonymous said...

Wilson said: Cheap shots from shady characters!

Pot. Kettle.

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