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Small Claims task force meetings begin Wednesday

February 20, 2012

The newly created task force formed by the Indiana Supreme Court to look into the practices and procedures used in Marion County Small Claims courts will hold its first of three hearings Wednesday.

Indiana Court of Appeals Judge John Baker and Senior Judge Betty Barteau – who both have experience with small claims cases – make up the task force. They will gather information by meeting with the judges and staff of the small claims courts and from public hearings. The goal is to get feedback from small claims litigants and attorneys.

The first meeting is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Perry Township Small Claims Court, 4925 Shelby St., Indianapolis. Meetings will also be held Feb. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Pike Township Small Claims Court, 5665 Lafayette Rd., Suite B, Indianapolis; and at Marion Circuit Court at 6 p.m. on March 7 in the City-County Building.

The task force was created after allegations surfaced that large filers, such as property managers and collection companies, receive special treatment in the Marion County Small Claims courts, and that some parties “forum shop” by choosing to file in a particular small claims court with the thought that the defendant won’t be able to attend the hearing due to lack of reliable access to public transportation.

There have also been questions raised regarding the township trustees’ influence on court staff and operating budgets.

Once the task force has held the meetings and reviewed the practices and procedures, it will report to the Indiana Supreme Court Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure with any recommendations about adjustments that could be made. The Indiana Supreme Court has the final say as to what, if any, procedural rules need changed.

In response to allegations, Marion County Small Claims judges have formed a plan to post brochures in the courtrooms detailing litigants’ rights and responsibilities.

 

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