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. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  2. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  3. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  4. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  5. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well