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. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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