Court of Appeals Rules Lake County Must Pay Probation Officers’ Legal Expenses

Read the original article source of this excerpt.

Indiana Court of Appeals on 04/30/2021 by Indiana Court of Appeal

In 2015, a probationer filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against the Lake County Board of Commissioners, five Lake County Superior Court Criminal Division Judges, and two Lake County probation officers acting in their official capacities alleging violations of their constitutional rights.  The Attorney General is required to defend state employees per Indiana Code, but declined to defend the probation officers after Lake County filed a formal written demand requesting such.  The Attorney General concluded that lake County is responsible for defending the probation officers.

Writing for the unanimous panel, Judge Mathias cites Indiana Code section 11-13-1-1 stating that probation officers service at the pleasure of the court and are directly responsible to and subject to the orders of the court.  The statute continues to state that probation officers’ salaries are pay out of the county, city, or town treasury and probation officers are entitled to their actual expenses necessarily incurred in the performance of their duties.  Thus, if a probation officers’ legal expenses are incurred in the performance of their duties, then the County is responsible for those costs.

Two prior decisions are also cited in the opinion that agrees with the trial court’s conclusion that Lake County is responsible for the legal costs of defending its probation officers in the federal litigation.  Read the opinion here.