Senator wants no mandates

December 21, 2009
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Senate Joint Resolution 0002 is not likely to get the fanfare and attention that property tax caps, education, and health care will receive in the 2010 General Assembly, but if it eventually passes, it will have as much as an impact on the general community as any other issue.

SJR 0002 wants to prohibit any court established by the General Assembly – appellate or local courts – from issuing a mandate, order, or other writ requiring the state or a political subdivision of the state from spending money on the operation of any court in the state.

The resolution would alter Article 7 of the Indiana Constitution by inserting language preventing the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, or any other court established by the legislature from ordering the state, counties, cities, or any other subdivisions of the state, to pay for court operation costs. Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, authored the resolution.

There’s no doubt this is a cost-savings measure that some legislators feel is necessary given the state of the economy in Indiana right now. Everyone’s looking to do more with less, but amending the constitution to prevent courts from ordering the state or county to help pay for court costs may do more harm than good.

Where will this money come from if the state or county won’t foot the bill? Courts will be forced to cut staff and hours, which will lead to an increase in a backlog of cases. If courts refuse to cut staff, will the money have to come from an increase court fees the public will have to pay?

Judicial mandates don’t happen often, and they are usually used when judges believe their courts need the state or county money to keep operating at a functional level. Two of the last three that I’m aware of dealt with pay raises for court staff. The judges in these cases were worried they’d lose their staff to higher-paying jobs, especially when the staffers had been denied pay raises by the councils controlling the money.

If SJR2 passes this year, it will still have to be approved by a second General Assembly before voters have the chance to ratify the constitution.
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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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