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Judge to Ballard rep: We decide where courts go

March 21, 2014

Marion Superior judges on Friday gave a grudging endorsement to the former General Motors stamping plant site as the location for a proposed criminal justice complex, but not before sending a message to Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard that where courts are located is their decision.

Ballard senior policy adviser Kurt Fulbeck made a brief presentation to the Marion Superior Executive Committee on Friday during which he asked for the judges’ recommendation of a preferred site. Ballard prefers the GM site, but the city has left open the possibility of a site at Indianapolis International Airport near the Hendricks County line.

“Who do you think makes the ultimate decision on this?” Marion Superior Judge James Osborn asked. Fulbeck responded the City-County Council and project shareholders.

“With regard to where the courts are located,” Osborn said, “that’s our decision. … Nobody gets to tell us where to go.” Osborn said he was reluctant to offer an endorsement because he said he didn’t want to suggest the courts were ceding their authority.

But the executive committee did vote to express a formal preference for the former GM site over the airport. Marion Superior criminal judges earlier this week viewed a presentation on the project but withheld their comments during the public portion of the meeting.

“I think everyone said we don’t want to go to the airport,” Judge John Chavis said of the judges’ views of the two sites.

Executive Committee chairman Judge David Certo emphasized that point as the committee considered its preference: “We’re not interested in pursuing the airport site.”

City officials have made numerous presentations in recent days to neighborhood groups and stakeholders on the proposal. Another public meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday in the public assembly room of the City-County Building.

The project announced in December is expected to cost as much as $400 million and would consolidate the Marion County jail, Superior Court criminal division, and prosecutor, public defender, probation and other related functions.

This story first appeared in IBJ sister publication The Indiana Lawyer.

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