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Bankruptcy court staff cuts starting to impact customers

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The United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana cut an additional eight positions from its clerk’s office at the end of September, according to an update posted online from Chief Judge James Coachys. The court had already cut six positions in the beginning of the year.

The clerk’s office is the smallest it has been since the mid-1980s with 50 people on staff, Coachys reports. Courtroom services and case management have been hit the hardest because of the cuts. Employees in those areas sometimes are not able to process orders or take other actions as quickly as in the past. The Terre Haute office continues to operate at reduced hours.

The chief judge is asking the bar to help the court operate more efficiently, such as by letting the courtroom deputy know by phone when a motion to continue is going to be filed for a hearing that is set in the next 24 hours or to advise the courtroom deputy when an emergency motion has been filed.

“We now know our funding for the first few months of FY2014. While the Judiciary as a whole gets at least as much funding as it did for the equivalent period post-sequestration in FY2013, we will receive locally less than we were allotted for the same time period – because the Judiciary’s fixed costs have increased and because our filings have declined and our staff has shrunk more than other courts,” Coachys writes. “However, we believe that the staff cuts made to date will be sufficient to avoid further elimination of positions in FY2014 – if funding for the entire fiscal year is consistent with what we’ve been given through early January. Staff has been advised that furlough days unrelated to a government shutdown remain a possibility.”

Bankruptcy filings are down 6 percent in the Southern District, according to new data released Thursday by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. In 2013 Fiscal Year ending Sept. 30, 20,588 filings were made as compared to 21,909 filed during the same time in 2012. Filings are also down 4.5 percent in the Northern District of Indiana and overall are down 12 percent across federal courts.
 

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