Appellate office clears backlog

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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A new shift in the Indiana Appellate Clerk's Office has helped eliminate a backlog that created delays for some files getting to the appropriate court and appearing on the docket.

Dealing with a backlog that's been evident for months, Appellate Clerk Kevin Smith started making changes late last year after becoming concerned with the ability to keep up with growing caseloads and intake workloads. The office implemented staff and organizational changes in January that involved hiring new employees, shuffling existing staff, and creating an extra morning shift to process paperwork more quickly.

An office manager spot created in January to supervise case managers meshed with a new 5 to 8 a.m. shift that started Feb. 4, Smith said, and his office was able to "virtually eliminate" the backlog of unprocessed filings that before could sit for days or even weeks.

After his office was able to completely purge the backlog this week, Smith says no filing in his office is more than 24 hours old from its arrival date and filings are being docketed within a day. Most that arrive by mail in the morning are processed by the end of the day, and those arriving later are processed by the end of the next day, he said.

While this probably isn't the first time an appellate clerk has been able to process filings within a day, Smith noted that he is the first in recent memory to put a formal policy into place to make this a top priority.

For attorneys, Smith said this backlog elimination means less chance exists for documents to get misplaced or overlooked, as has happened in the past.

Unforeseen issues inevitably arise that may cause some filings to be processed outside the 24-hour goal, Smith admits. Those include unexpected staff absences or departures, holiday seasons, or times when the office is "slammed" with a more than typical amount of filings.

"Even the inevitable occasional 'spikes' should not prevent time-sensitive materials from getting processed immediately, given our new triage system," Smith wrote in an e-mail to Indiana Lawyer.

Smith encourages attorneys to contact his office directly if they have any concerns or do not see a mailed submission posted on the online docket within five business days. He also encourages appellate attorneys to give his office a heads-up about a time-sensitive motion or filing they plan to make, as well as not waiting until the last minute. The Appellate Clerk's Office can be reached directly by calling (317) 232-1930, or by sending an e-mail via the Indiana Judiciary Web site.

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