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Commission votes on court-related recommendations to lawmakers

January 1, 2007
A handful of Hoosier counties got a nod from a legislative study commission for new courts and judicial resources this week, and those recommendations will now go to lawmakers for consideration in the next General Assembly session.

The Commission on Courts met Monday to discuss and vote on several measures that include new courts or judicial officers, but Marion County and the Indiana Court of Appeals are not on the list of recommendations.

The commission did not bring up or vote on a previous request from the Indiana Court of Appeals for a three new appellate judges for a sixth district, and they also noted a request was withdrawn from Marion County to convert 20 commissioners to magistrates.

However, commission members voted to add a second Circuit judge in Franklin County and abolish that court's magistrate position; convert two Madison County Court judges into the fourth and fifth Superior judges; add a second judge to Miami Superior Court; create two new general magistrate positions for St. Joseph Probate Court to replace the juvenile magistrates there; to create a new magistrate position for the Dearborn-Ohio Circuit Court; and to abolish the Jefferson-Switzerland Circuit Court with Jefferson County retaining the current joint Circuit judge.

Each one of those received a unanimous vote, along with the two other topics that warranted a vote from the commission.

One of the recommendations would allow for magistrates statewide to enter final orders or judgments in proceedings that involve small claims, protective orders, or cases that prevent domestic or family violence. Currently, only Allen and St. Joseph county magistrates have these powers, and judges there told the commission that the courts' growing caseloads in these areas means that they couldn't operate without the magistrates performing those functions.

The chairman read a statement from St Joseph Superior Judge John Marnocha that said the process has worked well and that, "It is particularly important to litigants that they have a final decision at the time it is made, rather than waiting for a judge to approve the recommendation of the magistrate. It has also alleviated judges from the time it takes to review the orders (which) in a high volume court is crucial."

Commission members voted unanimously to recommend the magistrate powers expansion to lawmakers.

The commission decided not to address or vote on changes regarding judicial mandates, instead opting to leave that responsibility to the Indiana Supreme Court to address as situations arise.

None of these votes put the changes in effect; all of the commission's recommendations will go to the General Assembly for consideration in their next legislative session.
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