ILNews

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a footnote in today's decision Karen R. Berry Williams v. State of Indiana, No. 73A01-0511-CR-513, and the March 20 Not for Publication ruling on Jerry A. Gore v. State of Indiana, No. 18A05-0610-CR-587.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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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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