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Ruling: Magistrate improperly heard support case assigned to special judge

September 30, 2013

A father whose lawyer was surprised to see a magistrate presiding at his child support modification hearing that had been docketed with a special judge won a new hearing from the Indiana Court of Appeals on Monday.

In William A. Asher v. Stephanie J. Coomler 49A04-1302-DR-71, William Asher was ordered to pay 78 percent of the educational expenses for his daughter after Magistrate Kimberly Mattingly conducted a hearing in Marion Superior Court. Asher’s attorney had objected to Mattingly presiding. Special Judge S.K. Reid had been selected to hear the matter under Trial Rule 79 after Asher had moved for a special judge.
 
 “By the express terms of T.R. 79(I)(2)(a), only a judge pro tempore, temporary judge, a senior judge appointed by Judge Reid could preside under such circumstances. Further, T.R. 79(I)(2)(b) is inapplicable since Judge Reid was the regular judge of Civil Division 14 at the time of hearing. Because a magistrate is not within the class of judicial officers specified in T.R. 79(I)(2), Magistrate Mattingly could not preside at the hearing,” Judge Patricia Riley wrote for the panel that included Judge James Kirsch and Chief Judge Margret Robb.

“Because Father objected to Magistrate Mattingly presiding over the case at the first hearing, no further objections were required,” Riley wrote. “Therefore, the Order is without legal effect. … Accordingly, we reverse and remand with instructions to the trial court to permit the parties to select a successor special judge in accordance with the procedures specified in T.R. 79(I)(1).”

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