Monday, March 24, 2008

Micromanaging Judges

What's the sweetest feeling a blogger gets? Being ahead of the mainstream media, folks! Two days after my critique of the Judge Payne agenda, Tim Evans with the Star details how judges have their authority curtailed under the budget that just passed.

Under the new legislation, DCS, and not the court, carries the big bat in deciding what services are best for delinquent children and children in need of services (CHINS). The basis for this change according to Payne is that now that the state is responsible for more child welfare expenses, they need to monitor the money. Judge Payne points out that we get only 50% of the dollars we could for CHINS kids and only 10% of the delinquent kids for two primary reasons:

(1) judicial orders that do not include the appropriate language to qualify for federal reimbursement; and

(2) placement of children in programs that are not eligible for the cost-sharing.

Putting aside that judges are not generally incredibly stupid and could be given new forms that comply with federal reimbursement requirements without new legislation, the craziest part of this bill from a lawyer's perspective is that when DCS and the court disagree, DCS can actually file an appeal with the Indiana Court of Appeals. Can you envision something more pointless than using our appellate court to resolve something like whether a parent goes to intensive inpatient vs. outpatient treatment or where a juvenile gets housed?

The stories states that "Payne acknowledged there will be an adjustment period for judges, service providers, local officials and others who will see their roles changing -- in some cases, significantly.

"We'll take our lumps," he said of the anticipated fallout. "But in the end, this is about doing what's best for children and families."

Not exactly. But I'll save that for a separate entry.


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