Commission discusses technology, hardship license

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2007
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The Commission on Courts - the legislative interim study committee that considers issues instrumental in court operations - gathered Tuesday to hear about technological initiatives under way in the state courts and expanding the jurisdiction of courts issuing driver's licenses because of hardship.

Mary DePrez, director and counsel of trial court technology for the Supreme Court's Judicial Technology and Automation Committee, told the commission about new initiatives launched recently on a protective order registry and e-traffic citations, all of which will eventually tie into a statewide case management system being implemented in coming years. Monroe County courts and Washington Township's Small Claims Court in Marion County are the first participants and should be up and running by March 17, 2008. Five more counties will be selected to move forward at that time, Justice Frank Sullivan told commission members.

Still under discussion and consideration is how public access to the case management system will be handled, Justice Sullivan said. Attorneys will have access, but the JTAC committee will likely develop policy and make suggestions to the Indiana Supreme Court for consideration about how that public access will be implemented.

Commission members also heard a presentation about hardship licenses, which Dearborn Superior Judge G. Michael Witte said is a topic of discussion for judges across the state. Currently, only Circuit courts can hear these cases in the jurisdiction where the person lives, rather than the court where the license was suspended. Judge Witte proposes that Superior courts be allowed to handle these and that they be kept in the same courts considering the person's other driving-related issues.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard described this as a "very good idea" and said it would help organize these matters for efficiency. He proposed drafting language that would make it clear only Circuit and Superior courts have jurisdiction, not city or town courts.

No vote was taken, but lawmakers said they plan to do so at a coming meeting. The commission plans to meet next Oct. 1 to hear proposals about new courts and judicial officers. They also plan to discuss Indiana Trial Rule 60.5 that deals with mandate of funds, and the issue of allowing magistrates of the Vanderburgh Superior Court to enter final orders or judgments in small claims or protective-order cases.

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