Saturday, July 24, 2010

07242010 - News Article - Probate commissioner named to help magistrate with cases - Magistrate James Johnson judicial investigation

Probate commissioner named to help magistrate with cases
Post Tribune
July 24, 2010
VALPARAISO -- A probate commissioner has been assigned to help Magistrate James Johnson with a backlogged divorce and probate cases.

Porter County's Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper ruled during Friday morning's public hearing that there is a need for one, and after 2 p.m., Harper issued a press release naming Attorney Mary A. DeBoer of Valparaiso as the appointment, made by the six Porter County judges, for 60 to 90 days.

DeBoer served as a temporary judge while Johnson was receiving medical treatment, a news release stated.

"The appointment of a probate commissioner is necessary to protect the interests of litigants," Harper said at the public hearing.

She added that her court budget has adequate funding to pay for the hourly position, but didn't say how much it will cost.

The judges first discussed the possibility of a probate commissioner on Wednesday, in a closed meeting addressing Johnson's backlog of cases under advisement.

After that meeting, Harper said that the commissioner was being considered to work on incoming cases while Johnson worked to close cases he has under advisement.

His illness this winter aggravated the backlog, Harper said then.

At the end of the June quarter, Johnson had 97 cases under advisement, although he reduced that into the 80s this past week.

The judges imposed a schedule Wednesday for him to finish by October.

Johnson did not attend the public hearing, although his supervising judge, Roger Bradford, appeared with their shared staff.

Two women spoke from the gallery at the hearing, both in favor of a probate commissioner appointment to speed up cases.

Linda Moore of Valparaiso said she filed for divorce in September and has had two hearings but no rulings. Janet Miller of Valparaiso said her case is in Magistrate Katherine Forbes's court, and although her divorce was granted in March 2009, there's still no settlement and the next date is next March.

As probate commissioner, DeBoer will conduct hearings and address

probate and divorce cases.A 1993 graduate of Valparaiso University School of Law, she worked extensively in the Starke County Prosecutor's office and served in the Porter County Prosecutor's office.

DeBoer was also a magistrate in Starke in 2005 and 2006.

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