Commissioners join lawsuit to prevent Gary court’s move to Crown Point
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent February 6, 2013 4:02PM
Michael McArdle/Post-Tribune Mary beth bonaventura photographed April 19, 2005.
Updated: March 8, 2013 7:37AM
CROWN POINT — The Lake County Board of Commissioners is joining the litigation aimed at stopping the transfer of the child support court from Gary to the Government Center.
Chairman Roosevelt Allen Jr., D-Gary, said the commissioners are intervening in the lawsuit filed Feb. 1 by the cities of Gary and East Chicago and the NAACP, which is acting on behalf of two private citizens, seeking to stop Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura from consolidating the courts to the Crown Point location.
A hearing on the injunction will take place Friday before Circuit Court Judge George Paras.
Allen said commissioners object to the change in venue, which would bring the court far away from the majority of the individuals it serves. Many of those who use the court are north county single mothers with young children in tow and no access to public transportation to bring them the minimum 20 miles south.
“For the (child support) court to accomplish what is does, they have to have a hearing that the mothers have to come to,” Allen said. He rebuffed the argument that residents are able to make it to the Government Center for other court proceedings. Many of those proceedings, he said, are criminal in nature and require appearances by the attorney, not the individual.
If the mothers do not appear in child support court they are found in contempt and could lose access to benefits.
“There is no regional bus transportation and that creates an even greater hardship,” he said.
Commissioners also spent $180,000 three years ago to build the fourth-floor courtroom in Gary to Bonaventura’s specifications. Now the judge is seeking additional funding to accommodate a move to the government center.
“That’s not a good return on taxpayers’ investment,” Allen said.
Bonaventura could not immediately be reached.