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South Bend police tapes case back in court Monday

SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The South Bend Common Council argued a motion before the judge Monday that requests the South Bend police officers involved in the police tape scandal not be allowed to participate in future proceedings.

The reasoning is that a settlement they reached with the city in federal court dismisses any future claims they could make pertaining to the tapes.

The officers and city administration disagree that the settlement denies their right to be involved.

The big questions in this now infamous case are:

1. Were the South Bend Police conversations recorded between 2010 and 2011 done so legally?

2. Will the judge compel the South Bend City Administration to release them if he determines the tapes were obtained legally?

“All everybody wants is to have a court make a determination. We thought we had that in federal court. Judge Easterbrook vacated that decision and so we’re back to square one again," said Dan Pfeifer, the attorney for the South Bend officers.

They're back at the starting line but with a pitstop Monday.

The first question St. Joseph County Superior Court Judge Steven Hostetler is 'can the police officers be a part of future proceedings after settling with the city administration?'

"Beyond the settlement, they filed a stipulation with the federal court saying all of our claims against the common council and the city of south bend are dismissed with prejudice, and with prejudice means we can't bring them again," said Bob Palmer, the Common Council's attorney.

“I don’t  think that there is any harm, and I think that’s what we carved out in our resolution with the city," said Pfeifer.

Attorneys for the officers and the city have until January 3 to file a response to the Common Council's motion. 

The council then has until January 13 to file the final response. 

72 days later, the judge will decide whether or not officers will be allowed to continue on in the proceedings.

As a refresher, we asked Palmer to boil down the Common Council's core argument in this entire case.

"The council wants to know what the specific references were that Karen DePaepe heard that gave her concern, why they gave her concern...The council has taken the position that the tapes were legally recorded, and we have a statutory obligation to investigate those tapes to see if there's any wrongdoing," said Palmer.

When asked how he would justify costing taxpayers more than a million dollars with this lawsuit the past five years, Palmer says the council thinks that price tag is worth having a transparent government.

A hearing on summary judgment was scheduled for March, but the judge has now pushed that back in light of Monday's hearing.

The attorneys will be working together to determine a new schedule.

Summary judgment means if all sides agree on the facts of a case, a judge can just make a ruling on the legal issue at hand in a lawsuit.



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