ILNews

Court filings lowest in 7 years, 2011 stats show

Dave Stafford
October 29, 2012
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The number of cases filed in Indiana courts in 2011 is the lowest since 2004, according to exhaustive data in the annual Judicial Service Report released Monday.

About 1.68 million new cases were filed in trial courts last year, and expenses for all courts likewise declined. Courts spent about $392.5 million in the 2010-2011 fiscal year, down slightly from the $393.3 million spent in the prior fiscal year.

“Other than the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, I can’t think of any other agency of state government that touches so many Hoosiers,” Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson said Monday at a news conference where the annual report “Honored to Serve” was released.

The 1,725-page report can be viewed online. The report and those from prior years also are available for review in the Indiana Supreme Court Law Library.

Dickson said the courts continue to be underfunded and judges’ workloads are still higher than they should be. He noted that only about 1 percent of the state budget funds courts, and the bulk of funding is picked up by local government.

Dickson said he intends to talk with lawmakers in the 2013 legislative session about the need to boost court funding, particularly for technology that he said would save taxpayers money and improve court efficiency. Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said Dickson has suggested an increase in court filing fees to fund improvements in court technology.

A boost of funding might be needed because the data shows the courts collecting significantly less in filing fees, user fees and other revenue. During fiscal year 2010-2011, the figure was $211.8 million collected – a 9 percent decline from collections in the prior fiscal year that topped $232.8 million.

The number of cases rising through the appellate courts is down significantly, Dickson said. Last year the Supreme Court heard 84 cases compared to between 90 and 100 in typical years.

“Our numbers are down, the Court of Appeals numbers are down,” Dickson said. “We’re sort of scratching our heads” trying to determine why.

The data doesn’t always provide answers to the decreases in cases, he said. The information does not, for instance, indicate the number of potential filings that were averted by alternate dispute resolution. On the appellate level, it doesn’t consider cases that higher courts believe the trial court got right, or a potential decline in the number of appeals because of the cost.

Examples of data in the 2011 report highlighted by court staff include:

  • Indiana courts have seen an 11 percent decrease in the number of cases filed since 2002.
  • 193 murder cases were filed in 2011, a 31 percent decrease since 2002.
  • 1,298 civil and criminal jury trials were held statewide –  approximately one for every 1,300 cases filed.
  • About one in five cases involved a pro se litigant.
  • There were 30,272 mortgage foreclosure filings, a 31 percent decline from 2007
  • The 10,665 Child In Need of Services cases is down 12 percent from 2010
  • An interpreter was used in 13,992 cases.
     
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  1. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  2. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  3. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

  4. When I hear 'Juvenile Lawyer' I think of an attorney helping a high school aged kid through the court system for a poor decision; like smashing mailboxes. Thank you for opening up my eyes to the bigger picture of the need for juvenile attorneys. It made me sad, but also fascinated, when it was explained, in the sixth paragraph, that parents making poor decisions (such as drug abuse) can cause situations where children need legal representation and aid from a lawyer.

  5. Some in the Hoosier legal elite consider this prayer recommended by the AG seditious, not to mention the Saint who pledged loyalty to God over King and went to the axe for so doing: "Thomas More, counselor of law and statesman of integrity, merry martyr and most human of saints: Pray that, for the glory of God and in the pursuit of His justice, I may be trustworthy with confidences, keen in study, accurate in analysis, correct in conclusion, able in argument, loyal to clients, honest with all, courteous to adversaries, ever attentive to conscience. Sit with me at my desk and listen with me to my clients' tales. Read with me in my library and stand always beside me so that today I shall not, to win a point, lose my soul. Pray that my family may find in me what yours found in you: friendship and courage, cheerfulness and charity, diligence in duties, counsel in adversity, patience in pain—their good servant, and God's first. Amen."

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