ILNews

Court examines master commissioner statutes

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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Footnotes in at least two recent Indiana Court of Appeals decisions show how the appellate court sees state statutes governing the authority master commissioners have in carrying out trial court business.

In a published opinion issued today in Denia Baniaga v. State of Indiana, No. 49A04-0801-CR-21, the three-judge panel led by Chief Judge John G. Baker attached a footnote to the first page of the case from Marion Superior Judge Steven Eichholtz and Master Commissioner Patrick Murphy. The master commissioner heard the case involving felony cocaine possession and a misdemeanor charge of driving with a suspended license, and he signed the abstract of judgment.

A July 25 memorandum opinion from the Court of Appeals in Ervin Crabtree v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0711-CR-983, contained similar language in a case involving the same judge and master commissioner.

Interpreting two statutes governing master commissioners, the court noted that it believes the law says a master commissioner must keep the judge apprised regarding the matters before him or her, but not that the judge needs to approve by signature the master commissioner's statutorily authorized actions.

The court delved into Indiana Code 33-33-49-16(e) that provides that a "master commissioner shall report findings in each of the matters before the master commissioner in writing to the judge or judges of the division to which the master commissioner is assigned;" as well as Indiana Code 33-23-5-5 that gives master commissioners similar duties that a magistrate has in entering final orders, conducting sentencing hearings, or imposing sentences on someone convicted of a criminal offense.
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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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