Fourth Court - "It is inevitable that a fourth court will be added" Judge Nathan Nikirk
LAWRENCE COUNTY - (December 13, 2021) - In an interview with Judge Nathan Nikirk by RQAW the questions of a fourth court will be added eventually. The Lawrence County Zephyr continues to look at the Lawrence County Justice Study.
Lawrence County Circuit Court Judge Nathan Nikirk
Lawrnce County is ranked 35 out of the 92 counties in Indiana for the need of an additional court.
The Circuit Court is not as busy as the other two courts Superior Court I and Superior Court II, but according to Judge Nikirk " It is inevitable that a fourth court will be added,".
The total case load for the Lawrence County Courts at the end of the third quarter in 2020:
Lawrence County Circuit Court - 7,720 cases before court - Disposed of 1,162 -Total cases pending at the end of the third quarter 6,545
Lawrence County Superior Court I - 1,471 cases before court - Disposed of 682 cases - Total cases pending at the end of the third court 752 cases
Lawrence County Superior Court II - 6,681 cases before court - Disposed of 2,386 cases - Total pending cases at the end of the third quarter 4,325
Annah Gouty can have up to 15-20 people in her small courtroom, and very few of her cases have one mom and dad. According to Nikirk she uses his courtroom when the proceedings get too crowded.
According to Judge Nikirk the fourth court will speed up the judicial process, slow the population in the jail and Nikirk anticipates that within the next five years the additional court will be added. The court will either be Superior Court III or a Magistrate will be added.
Judge William Sleva retired at the end of 2020 and serves as a part-time Judge to help clear up some of the back log of cases.
Judge Sleva issued a Judge mandate at the end of his term to fix some of the issues surrounding the low pay of court personnel, and the need for a fourth court room.
During the 2022 budget the issue for more pay was resolved with the Lawrence County Council. However, Lawrence County Commissioners rejected the bids for the construction of a fourth court room located at the Courthouse Plaza.
A grant that was awarded to Judge Nikirk for the engineering study of a 3,100 square foot courtroom is set to expire at the end of the year. The Lawrence County Commissioners have approved that area to be used for voter registration.
Judge Nikirk serves as an administrator for all the three courts and would love a new justice campus connected to the new jail facility. According to Nikirk the jail has been a burden to the county for some time. " If the pumps under the existing jail ever stop working, the underground spring could leak into the jail," said Nikirk.
Nikirk does not like the downtown location for the jail, and prefers the jail being on a greenfield site outside of the downtown area. Nikirk suggest the jail location be located near the hospital where the county already owns property.
The existing courthouse itself will be 100 years old in 2030, and Nikirk would like to preserve the history of the courthouse as much as possible.
Nikirk believes the circuit court should stay at the existing courthouse, as well as all the other functions of the county such as the Auditors office, Clerk-Treasurer, Recorders, and Surveyor's Offices.
Nikirk believes there is a need for a Juvenile Facility in Lawrence County which will be a alternative to detention, and more housing than detention is needed for juveniles.
In our next part of the series, we will look at the site locations for a new Lawrence County Jail.