Attorneys opening new civil cases in Lake County should note that a new random filing system is being put in place, a plan described as the most extensive use of this in the county's history.
A caseload allocation plan submitted to the Indiana Supreme Court last fall took effect in January, meaning that various civil cases are starting this system.
Filings of miscellaneous civil and mortgage foreclosures began random filing Jan. 1, while civil plenary and civil torts begin April 1, Lake Superior Judge John Pera said.
This means that an attorney must initially file a case in Crown Point, and then that case will be randomly assigned to another location or retained in that central spot, Judge Pera said.
In Lake Superior's seven civil division courtrooms and one Circuit court, attorneys have traditionally been able to choose where they file their cases. Judge Pera said that practice has contributed to delays because of a hefty disparity among the courts' caseloads - such as only 60 mortgage foreclosures filed in East Chicago last year and more than 900 in one Crown Point courtroom alone.
Now, most of the courts are moving to this new system, which is already used in criminal courts to ensure a more balanced caseload within the courtrooms, Judge Pera said. Lake Superior Judge Elizabeth Tavitas, who primarily handles domestic relations and family cases, is exempt from those changes.
The judge points out that 85 percent or more civil cases are filed initially by mail, so this centralized filing method will cut delays.
Notices about the change are posted in the local county clerk's offices and are also being sent out from the courts to attorneys when pleadings are filed, Judge Pera said.