Witnesses testify Juvenile Court move from Gary a blow to poor

2013-03-11T19:45:00Z 2013-03-11T23:55:05Z Witnesses testify Juvenile Court move from Gary a blow to poorBill Dolan bill.dolan@nwi.com, (219) 662-5328 nwitimes.com
March 11, 2013 7:45 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | The outgoing Lake Juvenile Court judge was warned last month she needed permission from her fellow members of the judiciary to close the Gary branch of her child support division.

Lake County Attorney John Dull testified Monday the county commissioners wouldn't pay for such a move unless it was the consensus of all 16 Lake Superior Court judges in the county.

Dull is legal counsel for Commissioner Roosevelt Allen Jr., D-Gary, who testified Monday he wants the court to remain in his district.

They were among eight witnesses in a lawsuit filed against Lake Superior Court Judge Mary Beth Bonventura for closing her Gary juvenile division venue five weeks ago, consolidating it with her Crown Point juvenile facilities.

East Chicago and Gary city officials and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are suing, asking Lake Superior Judge George Paras to reverse the move on grounds it represents a hardship on low-income north county residents.

Other witnesses testified many summoned to the court for failing to pay or receive child support payments find it difficult to travel to Crown Point because they don't have cars and must rely on the county's bare bones public transit system.

Bonaventura said the consolidation saves tax dollars. She said travel to court is always difficult, but there was better public attendance at her Crown Point child support court that the Gary venue when both were open.

Bonaventura, who leaves office this month to become director of the Indiana Department of Child Services, is currently in conflict with her fellow Superior Court judges over her replacement on the Juvenile Court bench.

She is asking the Indiana Supreme Court to block Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli from replacing her. She wants all Lake County attorneys to have the opportunity to apply for the Juvenile Court judgeship through a nonpartisan nomination process.

Her fellow judges argue they must get the first opportunity to fill the Juvenile Court vacancy and are preparing to write the Supreme Court defending their decision last month to choose Schiralli, who has been a county division judge since 1976.

Schiralli said last month he wants to return the Juvenile Court child support division to Gary.

Testimony continues Tuesday.

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