HANCOCK COUNTY — For the meantime, the county will have a temporary judge working in Hancock County Superior Court 1. Effective Tuesday, July 19, senior judge Jeffrey C. Eggers will fill in as courtroom judicial official replacing judge D.J. Davis.
Davis, 50, has been out of the office on medical leave since early April due to a back injury.
Eggers was appointed to be a temporary judge by the chief justice of Indiana, Loretta H. Rush who officially signed the order Monday, July 11 in Indianapolis. In the official order, Rush noted Davis is unavailable to fulfill his duties due to ongoing health concerns and Eggers had expressed a willingness to serve on a temporary basis.
Eggers shall remain the Judge Pro Tempore for 90 days, the order states and the appointment may be extended upon request. The order also states Eggers is to continue the employment of court personnel. Eggers will be compensated the same rate as an elected judge while filling in for Davis.
Eggers began his career in 1981, before serving as judge of Johnson County Superior Court 2 from 1982 to 1987. He was then Johnson County Circuit Court judge from 1987 to 1994. After stepping down from the bench in 1994, Eggers opened his own practice, Eggers Woods in Franklin.
He has since served as a Pro Tempore judge in several Indiana counties, including Hancock County back in 2017 when he filled in for judge Richard Culver, who retired from the bench in Hancock County Circuit Court.
The addition of Eggers comes as welcome news to many working in the county court system that has been without one of the full time judges since April.
The county courts have been relying heavily on Magistrate Cody Coombs who has been doing most of the work in Superior Court 1 during Davis’ absence. Coombs has his own cases to oversee along with filling in for Judge Scott Sirk, in Circuit Court and Judge Dan Marshall in Superior Court 2. Both of those judges have also taken on more work to keep cases moving forward.
The court has also used two senior judges, during Davis’ absence, Thomas Clem out of Madison County and Terry Snow, who served locally in Superior Court 1 for years. However, both those judges are retired and were not always available. Plus, the type of cases they can work on varies, court officials said.
Coombs told the Daily Reporter earlier this summer, the county judiciary has worked hard to make sure Superior Court 1 has continued to operate as normally as possible, but he noted at the time, it’s not been easy. Coombs, who worked 70 hours a week in the spring to keep things running smoothly said it’s been trying for everyone with many cases and hearings rescheduled causing frustration at the prosecutor’s office, with defendants and lawyers.
“Judge Davis is a ‘special judge’ in a series of cases and he’s not available, so we have to call the parties in to see if they want to wait for him or move on,” Coombs said. “They have options, but none of them are ideal options.”
Davis told the Daily Reporter back in May he wanted to return as soon as June, but that was pushed back to a possible return this month. However, after back surgery in June, it appears Davis will need more time to recover.
Prosecutor Brent Eaton said news of a temporary judge coming in is welcomed. Eaton noted not having an elected official on the bench for nearly four months now has been challenging for his office. They’ve had to reschedule cases, including a high profile rape trial which had the date changed more than once.
“The public should expect that things are always going to work well for the public’s interest at all times and presently it’s a very difficult situation, especially on the heels of COVID,” Eaton said.
Eggers could end up being on the bench in Superior Court 1 through mid-October or longer.