Girard court gets partial victory in appeal

A magistrate ruled that the court should receive additional funding, but not as much as requested.
WARREN -- An appeals court dispute between city officials and Girard Municipal Court Judge Michael Bernard over court funding ended with a partial victory for the court, but the battle may not be over.
Judge Bernard ordered the city in November 2005 to increase its appropriation for court operations by $49,000. Council complied and later filed suit to get the money back.
The judge also ordered the city to increase appropriations to the court for 2006 to $905,454. The city appropriated about $600,000 for the court that year.
Magistrate Matthew O. Lamb of the 11th District Court of Appeals, in a ruling issued today, said "regardless of whom the judge is, city council still has an obligation to fund the court sufficiently to enable the court to function properly."
About the ruling
Lamb said the city failed to uphold its legal obligation to the court when the city appropriated only $600,000 to the court based on the fact that the court only generated $600,000 the prior fiscal year.
He said the city should have appropriated more money to the court, but some of that money would be offset because Judge Bernard abused his discretion by giving court employees a 9-percent raise during the 2006 fiscal year and by not cutting two members of his staff when the court's caseload began to drop, a move that would have saved $98,000.
Instead of granting the court its requested $905,454, the magistrate ruled that the city should appropriate $780,000 to the court for fiscal year 2006. The city's claim for reimbursement in the judge's 2005 order was dismissed for "failure to state a viable claim of action."
Attorneys for both sides will have five days to appeal the decision to a three-judge panel at the appellate court.

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