CROWN POINT | One of Lake County's longest-serving judges will be taking over the prestigious Juvenile Court bench next month.
A Lake Superior Court memo made public Friday indicated Judge Nicholas Schiralli will transfer March 1 to the juvenile system from the county division.
He replaces Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura, who is resigning at the end of this month to take over the Indiana Department of Child Services.
Schiralli said Friday once he takes over the juvenile system he intends to keep its IV-D child support court in Gary, ending a dispute with Gary, East Chicago and county government officials outraged over Bonaventura's plan to move that court to Crown Point this month.
Schiralli will take over a court with a $6 million budget and a staff of 169 that includes several judicial assistants and a juvenile detention center.
The court presides over about 30,000 cases of juvenile delinquency, investigations of child abuse and neglect and litigation involving child paternity and financial support.
He leaves behind a Superior Court, County Division, staff of 23 and a budget of $756,000, where he has presided over minor civil and criminal matters.
Bonaventura's court's vacancy had to first be offered to the 15 other judges in the Superior Court system in order of their job seniority.
Judge Gerald Svetanoff, who had served the longest in Superior Court, declined the job. Schiralli, who was next in line, accepted it.
Schiralli, 64, of Hobart, was born in Gary and graduated from Andrean High School 1966. He did his undergraduate work at the University of Notre Dame and got his law degree from the Indiana University School of Law in 1973.
Schiralli was appointed Justice of the Peace for Calumet Township in 1973, replacing his uncle, Nicholas Schiralli, who had died that year.
He was appointed a county judge in 1976 and won popular election as judge later that year, in 1980, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2002 and 2008.
Schiralli's move likely will end a controversy Bonaventura provoked several weeks ago when she announced she would move IV-D court to Crown Point from Gary.
The cities of Gary and East Chicago, the Lake County Board Commissioners and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have filed suit to oppose the move on grounds it will create a hardship for Gary and other north county residents who use the court but have no access to Crown Point because of a lack of public transportation.
Schiralli said Friday, "I was born and raised in Gary and went to school at Holy Angels. My first court was in Gary. I have always fought to keep my Gary court open. My strong preference is to keep the IV-D in Gary, but it's premature to do anything now because I don't have that authority until March 1."
The rest of the juvenile court system remains in Crown Point.
Schiralli's transfer will create another vacancy in Superior Court, which the remaining judges will be given the chance to fill.
Whether any take that transfer, there will be a Superior Court vacancy that will have to be filled later year year by the nonpartisan selection process.
The Lake County Judicial Nominating Commission will accept applications from any county attorney, interview the applicants and chose three finalists whose names will be forwarded to Gov. Mike Pence for his appointment later this year.