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COA footnotes: more past delays found

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Examples are still surfacing about how files had been delayed in getting transmitted to the Indiana Court of Appeals, although the Appellate Clerk's office has been backlog-free for about a month and these instances only highlight what had happened in the past.

Two opinions in the past week show cases that were not transmitted from the clerk's office for eight months and almost two years, respectively. Both included footnotes explaining the situation, recent reforms, and advice to counsel about keeping tabs on case statutes.

"We have recently become aware of some difficulties in receiving the prompt transmission of fully-briefed appeals to our court," says a footnote in today's decision Karen R. Berry Williams v. State of Indiana, No. 73A01-0511-CR-513, and the March 20 Not for Publication ruling on Jerry A. Gore v. State of Indiana, No. 18A05-0610-CR-587.

Williams was fully briefed March 26, 2006, but not transferred to the appellate court until Feb. 18, 2008; Gore was briefed June 21, 2007, and transferred Feb. 26, 2008, the footnotes say. At least four opinions dating to late last year have cited similar issues.

The footnotes also mention Lake County Board of Elections and Registration, et al. v. Anthony Copeland, No. 45A04-0710-CV-560, issued on Feb. 27, 2008, and Gilbert v. State of Indiana, 874 N.E.2d 1015 (Ind. Ct. App. 2007), released in October 2007.

Chief Judge John Baker, who authored both opinions and inserted the footnotes, told Indiana Lawyer earlier this week that he was proud of how the clerk's office had addressed and resolved the issues. Most credit should be given to Clerk Kevin Smith, the judge said, because he has been putting measures in place to solve the issues since the fall.

"The Clerk of the Court has assured us that a new system and periodic inventory review program have been implemented to minimize future delays," today's footnote in Williams says.

Dealing with a backlog that's been evident for months, Smith started making changes in late 2007 after becoming concerned with the ability to keep up with growing caseloads and intake workloads. The office implemented staff and organizational changes in January that involved hiring new employees, shuffling existing staff, and creating an extra morning shift to process paperwork more quickly. He reported in late February that his office had purged the backlog and no filing was more than 24 hours old from its arrival date, and everything is docketed within a day.

Chief Judge Baker said attorneys can check the clerk's online docket to confirm that the case has, in fact, been transmitted to the court after being fully briefed.

Smith also encourages attorneys to contact his office directly if they have any concerns or do not see a mailed submission posted on the online docket within five business days. He also suggests that appellate attorneys give his office a heads up about a time-sensitive motion or filing they plan to make, as well as not waiting until the last minute. The Appellate Clerk's office can be reached directly at (317) 232-1930 or by sending an e-mail via the Indiana Judiciary's Web site.
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