Thursday, October 28, 2010

Judge Charles Hunter: Them Rules Don't Apply To Me

Charles Hunter is an 87-year-old attorney who came out of retirement to serve as judge for Beech Grove's newly-created traffic court. WISH-TV's Deanna Dewberry had a great story tonight about how Charity Bryan, a paraplegic, got ticketed for parking in a handicapped spot. It turned out the parking placard for the vehicle in which she was being driven by her husband had fallen down from the rear view mirror and not observed by the police officer who issued her a $75 ticket. The police officer told Bryan she would have to go before the traffic court if she wanted to contest the ticket and so she did.

As WISH-TV reported, Bryan said Judge Hunter was rude to her and rejected her plea to drop the ticket even after observing her in a wheelchair in his courtroom. Bryan was further dejected by Hunter's ruling after seeing him leave leave the courtroom in a wheelchair. Judge Hunter reduced her fine to $10 but he assessed her more than $114.50 in court costs, making the amount she would have to pay higher than if she had simply paid the original fine. She took her case to WISH-TV's I-Team 8, which questioned Hunter about his ruling. He told I-Team 8 he had no recollection of Bryan's case which he had just heard days earlier, but he seemed to agree Bryan should not have to pay the ticket under the circumstances. But when Bryan went back to Hunter's court to have her case reviewed, he waived her off.

I-Team 8 cameras followed Judge Hunter when he left the traffic court in his wheelchair with his son. Judge Hunter got into a car that was parked in a handicapped parking space with, guess what, no visible handicap parking placard displayed in the vehicle, which also did not bear a handicap license plate. When I-Team 8 attempted to question him about his own hypocrisy on the matter, he refused to comment. His son quickly located the parking placard and displayed it after being caught on camera without it.

I-Team 8 looked closer at the traffic court's budget and discovered it cost almost twice as much to operate the court as it generated in revenues, including about $42,000 a year for Judge Hunter's part-time position. The purpose behind the court's creation was to create revenues for Beech Grove.

This incident reminded me of an old episode of the Andy Griffith Show when Deputy Barney Fife ticketed Gomer Pyle for making a U-turn. As Barney drove off in his police car after ticketing Gomer, he made a U-turn, which led Gomer to go chasing after him yelling, "citzens arrest, citizens arrest." Barney argued with Gomer as a crowd gathered over whether the law applied to him while driving his police car on official business. The restless crowd demanded that Barney be ticketed too. Sheriff Taylor arrived to calm things down by compelling Barney to write a ticket to himself. Barnes fumed, refused to pay the ticket, locked himself up and turned in his badge. Here's a clip of that episode:

12 comments:

msmith66 said...

You know its sweeps week, right?

Paul K. Ogden said...

I would point out that the relevant statute talks about the max court costs and it's like $75. You can't charge someone $149.50 for court costs. I'm pretty sure though Judge Hunter really isn't interested in the law.

Someday somene is going to look at how traffic ticket money is being divided up, including those tickets that settle beforehand. They're going to find the locals are pocketing a lot more cash thany they're supposed to be.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Gary,

Did everyone miss the fact he gets a $42,000 salary and hears cases one day a week How can I get that gig?

It sounds like they're not acting as a "court of record," by recording proceedings and keeping judgements and other orders. He'll get in trouble for that. The appeal goes from Beech Grove to the Indiana Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals will not like how he's running the court when they have no transcrip to review.

By the way, your video is to the teaser, not the story.

Paul K. Ogden said...

Who cares msmith66? How is this not a legitimate story?

Advance Indiana said...

I've added the video of the full story, Paul. It wasn't available last night when I posted it.

Advance Indiana said...

It's a good story for sweeps week. Deanna Dewberry did a great job with the story. Too bad the Star doesn't have people doing that kind of reporting.

Indy Student said...

It's been a concern of mine that those with physical disabilities are often taken advantage of in traffic court, and even just people who feel ill. As Paul has covered, the "Honorable" Judge Young refuses to let anyone out of "his" courtroom for any reason without an automatic loss on their case. Doesn't matter if it's to use the restroom or to take your medication with a drink of water.

And did I hear that right? $42k a year for a part time job, probably with benefits, and he hears one case a week?

And what pisses me off the most is Beech Grove doesn't even try to hide that they're just trying to rack up fines to increase revenue.

I know the libertarian folks in Keene, NH have been able to fight parking and traffic tickets much more efficiently than elsewhere since they refuse to pay into the system. Even in cases where they're forced to pay, they've been able to negotiate so that their fine goes to a charity rather than into the government coffers. I sure wouldn't mind paying the fine if I didn't know that most of it was just going to cover the costs of running the damn court.

msmith66 said...

I care Paul. I think if you read the law it states that the placard has to be visible. I don't think the law makes exceptions for hypocritical judges or how much salary they make or how many cases they hear a week.

Surely this woman has redress in some other forum than the media - who only care when it boosts their ratings.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Another republican gone bad.

Jon said...

Last night when they interviewed the judge, forget the tv channel, they noted that the fines collected were about 80k while the cost of the court and salaries was over 160k. It's cheaper to not give out tickets. Apparently the ability to think hasn't gotten as far south as Beech Grove.

Downtown Indy said...

WISH ought to dig into the 'missing' $900,000 that was collected from residents for sewer and water charges, but the city never paid to [sorry can't recall to whom, DPW? Veolia?]. Where did it go?

Paul K. Ogden said...

IS,

No, he hears ases one day a month, for $42,000 that's what I read.

Msmith, did you miss the part about the hypocrisy of the judge violating the same law.

Just because the law says the placard has to be visible does not mean there is a penalty if it is not. For example, it's not against the law to drive without your driver's license, as many people think. Rather, you have a period of time to produce it if you don't have it on you. Likewise, if your license is expired the court will drop the ticket if you have it renewed before the court date.

Since when is our legal system supposed to be above common sene.

So you don't have a problem with how this court is being run? What about the fact he apparently isn't keeping any records in his court when it's a court of record? That makes it tough to take an appeal when you don't have any records. Of course, the Supreme Court is going to slap Judge Hunter down when they learn he isn't keeping records.

So you think motorists who are treated unfairly should just suck it up and pay $3,000 to hire an attorney for an appeal of their $150 fine that was wrongly imposed? So you think that seriously is a check on this judge?