Judge banishes prominent law firm from his court, prompting more delays for many cases

2013-08-04T20:30:00Z 2013-08-05T12:29:04Z Judge banishes prominent law firm from his court, prompting more delays for many casesSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
August 04, 2013 8:30 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | A Lake County judge has banned the law firm of a legendary criminal defense attorney from his courtroom, prompting the firm's cases to be delayed as they are transferred to other courts.

Among them is the case of William Young, a Schererville man whose neck was broken when his motorcycle was rammed from behind by a man alleged to have been drinking.

To Young, the latest delay in his case seems just another example of "bureaucracy at work," he said last week.

Court officials, who are reluctant to speak publicly, say Lake Superior Court Judge Nicholas Schiralli is transferring all cases handled by the prominent law firm of Thiros & Stracci to other courts because a member of that firm was involved in having legislation passed that contributed to Schiralli not getting named to head the Lake Juvenile Court vacated last spring by Mary Beth Bonaventura.

A "mandatory disposition conference" last May in Young's case should have prompted the presiding judge, Schiralli, to have the case resolved or set for trial, court officials familiar with the procedure say.

But instead, the case was set for yet another hearing July 16, which was canceled, in part, due to Schiralli's transferring the case to a Hammond court because of what court documents show as a "conflict."

Still waiting to be resolved in Young's case is a question of whether the defendant's blood tests can be entered into evidence.

The Lake County judiciary's blistering battle over who would fill the coveted seat of former Lake Juvenile Judge Bonaventura was widely reported statewide after Gov. Mike Pence chose Bonaventura last spring to become state director of the Department of Child Services.

Schiralli did not respond to repeated calls last week from The Times for comment.

James Thiros, son of renowned criminal defense attorney Nick Thiros, now deceased, declined to comment beyond confirming Schiralli is transferring the firm's cases to other courts.

It took the Indiana Supreme Court to ultimately settle the juvenile judge controversy in a decision that led to Schiralli's disqualification on the grounds he did not undergo merit selection as had other superior court judges.

Unfairly caught amid inside politics?

Meanwhile, William Young was left to ponder the delays in his nearly 2-year-old case in Schiralli's court.

Voice mail messages from the prosecutor's office to Young and court documents initially indicated the conflict cited by Schiralli might be due to the defense attorney being related to a deputy prosecutor.

However, Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter last week denied any involvement by his office in the transfer.

Had there been a relationship conflict between a deputy prosecutor and the defense attorney, Carter's office would have assigned a different deputy to the case and kept the case in Crown Point, Carter said.

"That was not the issue," he said. "It was more the judge disqualified himself."

Whatever Schiralli's reasoning, Young can't shake off his frustration with the courts.

"I did not expect this," he said. "No I didn't."

In attending court hearings, he says all he sees are "stacks and stacks of papers. My case is just another drop in the ocean."

Young said he sees his case as cut-and-dried and questions the numerous continuances.

"I just think judges should be a little more involved in handing out continuances," he said. "The more this drags on, I can't just let it go."

Young said this experience has left him questioning the use of his tax dollars.

"It's the lack of justice," he said. "That's all we're looking for, a little bit of justice."

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