The first judicial ruling has been issued in connection with the South Bend police tape scandal.
While the ruling brings the parties no closer to knowing ‘it’ the tapes can be released publicly, it does make clear ‘who’ will eventually make that decision.
From now on, the legal fight over the tapes will take place in federal court before U.S. District Court Judge Robert Van Bokkelen.
The decision was praised by Interim South Bend City Attorney Aladean DeRose: “The decision is a first step toward achieving what the Mayor has sought all along: a federal court ruling on whether the recordings can be released without violating the law.”
Up until now, the legal battle was essentially taking place on two fronts.
In August, the South Bend Common Council issued a subpoena for the tapes and set the stage for the litigation to go before St. Joseph Circuit Court Judge Michael Gotsch.
The subpoena was upstaged when the city administration went to federal court because a federal wiretapping issue may have been involved.
“There’s some disappointment we can't get the tapes heard, have the subpoena enforced immediately, but I think in the long run anybody who wants justice, whichever side you're on, is willing to wait for justice and I think that's really the most important thing,” said Mario Sims, a community activist with Citizens for Better Government. “It certainly gives us progress what it does is it instead of having two courts consider this issue now, it basically eliminates the state court, so that's progress. What it doesn't do is make any type of decision as to the merits of this case.”
The court still has another side motion pending before it can get to the nuts and bolts of the case: A request for a consolidation of claims.