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Comments wanted on proposed changes to senior judge rules

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The Indiana Supreme Court wants to hear from the public and legal community about revising the state’s senior judge program, allowing certified former judges to serve in any court rather than specific jurisdictions.

Public comments are being accepted through Dec. 1, according to an announcement Friday from the state’s highest court. The revisions would amend Administrative Rule 5 regarding the certification and appointment of senior judges to allow them broader jurisdictional power anywhere in the state they might be needed.

The proposed changes come from the Indiana Judicial Conference’s Strategic Planning and Senior Judge Committees, as part of a broader discussion and ongoing effort to reform Indiana’s courts. The changes would follow legislative action this past year that streamlined trial courts’ jurisdiction and gave them the ability to unify their local court systems for more efficiency.

On Thursday, that court reform topic and a mention of these senior judge program changes came up at the interim Commission on Courts meeting. Lawmakers and court officials discussed the state judiciary’s strategic plan on consolidating Indiana’s court systems – described as “one of the most complex” in the U.S.

“This opens up the door for more judicial creativity in resolving cases and collaborating,” Marion Superior Judge Mark Stoner, co-chair of the Judicial Conference Strategic Planning Committee, said about the overall court reform.

These proposed revisions to the senior judge program would complement those ongoing efforts. Specifically, the proposed changes would permit a certified senior judge to serve in any court, clarify the senior judges’ jurisdiction, provide information to trial courts about senior judges’ expertise and preferences, develop a set of “best practices” for those serving, and increase the number of automatic senior judge days that each court has. The specific revisions can be found online.

More than two decades after the Indiana General Assembly created this senior judge program in 1989, Indiana currently has 92 former judges certified to serve in senior judge capacities. The most recent data from 2010 shows they served 3,592 days in courts throughout the state – equivalent to 20 full-time judges, according to the state’s weighted caseload analysis.

Comments on the proposed changes can be sent to RulesComments@courts.in.gov, or by mail to Tom Carusillo in the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, 30 S. Meridian St., Suite 500, Indianapolis, IN 46204.

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