Local judge won't oversee South Bend police tapes case

Those fighting for the quick release of the South Bend police tapes suffered a setback today in court.

Some had hoped the legal wrangling between the South Bend mayor and the South Bend Common Council would take place before a local county court judge in South Bend.

Instead the litigation appears headed for the federal courts, either in Fort Wayne or Hammond.

"It's not the best news," said South Bend Common Councilman Henry Davis, Jr. "I think people are ready to move on with their lives as far as a community and the residents in the community, they want to move on with this issue."

Today, St. Joseph Circuit Court Judge Michael Gotsch put the proceedings before him on hold.

The sole reason cited for the decision was that the city administration was the first to file legal action, and by filing in federal court it had won the “race to the courthouse.”

“I can tell you it’s going to be a lot longer process in federal court. It’s going to be a lot more expensive for taxpayers in federal court. There’s two different lawsuits now in federal court, one in Hammond and one in Fort Wayne, travel costs alone is going to make this entire process more complicated, more expensive for the taxpayers,” said E. Spencer Walton, Jr., attorney for the South Bend Common Council.

The decision provided a double dose of disappointment for attorney Tom Dixon. Dixon represents former South Bend Police Chief Daryl Boykins. Dixon claims that the city administration seemed to be negotiating in good faith with parties interested in the tapes as to how best handle the legal question.

“And then the city said, well, we think we probably need to get them subpoened, so why don’t you subpoena them to us, that’s when that happened, and they went over to federal court without any discussions with anybody so, it was really frustrating to know they were utilizing that tactic,” said Dixon.

Judge Gotsch did leave open the possibility that he might change his mind, if the federal courts dismiss the cases pending there, or if “nothing happens over there.”
Gotsch scheduled a follow up hearing for December 3rd.

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