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Dickson: Lawmakers’ help needed to fix Marion County Small Claims courts

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Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson told a joint session of the General Assembly Wednesday that lawmakers’ help was needed to fix Marion County Township Small Claims Courts, which have been plagued by allegations of forum shopping and other criticism.

“Systemic change is imperative, and this requires legislative action,” Dickson said in his State of the Judiciary speech. He noted local leadership and rules changes instituted after a task force examined problems in the courts “can only scratch the surface.”

Reforming the township courts in Indianapolis was one of three judicial items Dickson said would require legislation. Others include bringing the abstract of judgment into the digital age. The court has been working with clerks and other stakeholders, he said, “in an effort to modernize this relic of the quill pen era. We need your help.”

Lawmakers in the future also should “consider shifting more and more funding of the judicial branch expenses from local government to state funding. For many reasons, this is wise and sound public policy, and it is used effectively in many other states.”

Dickson’s second State of the Judiciary address comes in a short session when lawmakers won’t be hashing out a budget or doing much heavy lifting on financial matters, and he didn’t lobby hard for funding.

“Indiana’s judges are very, very busy; we are extremely challenged but quite gratified every day. We could do even better with more resources,” he said at the outset.

He said the judiciary is “an amazing value to Hoosiers,” spending only 9 cents of every $10 collected by state and local units of governments, and returning more than half of those expenditures in collected revenue.

Mandatory reporting of pro bono hours for Indiana attorneys is moving forward. “We are working to have such a program in place in the coming months,” he said, noting an overview of civil cases statewide recently showed 63 percent of litigants were without counsel.

“When people are in court without a lawyer, bad things happen,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dickson said courts would assist with implementation of the Legislature’s “masterful achievement” of revising Indiana’s Criminal Code. “A product of multiple years of thoughtful efforts and difficult negotiations, the result was an outstanding piece of legislation,” he said.

The full text of Dickson’s address may be viewed on the court’s website.
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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