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Court's community-service policy is unenforceable

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a trial court’s order that an indigent small claims litigant perform community service in lieu of paying a filing fee, holding the informal local rule requiring community service is unenforceable.

Tippecanoe Superior Court 4 has a practice of requiring community service – typically 16 hours – before the court will grant a waiver of the filing fee or have a hearing on the merits. Darlene Baca, who is disabled and indigent, wanted to sue for the return of her security deposit from her former landlord. Since she couldn’t afford the filing fee, court personnel told her she could perform the standard 16 hours of community service. She contacted Indiana Legal Services, who argued on her behalf that Baca couldn’t perform community service.

Judge Pro Tempore Gregg S. Theobald suggested she try Meals on Wheels and advised Baca’s attorney that the attorney would be responsible for helping her find four hours of community service to perform. The court did allow her claim to be filed but held in abeyance the setting of a hearing date pending Baca’s performance of community service.

On interlocutory appeal, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s order in Darlene Baca v. RPM, Inc., c/o Patty Brown, No. 79A02-1006-SC-655. The Tippecanoe Superior Court’s practice is essentially a standing order because it hadn’t been adopted as a local rule as set forth in Indiana Trial Rule 81(B). Subsection (A) of that rule includes a specific prohibition against standing orders to regulate local court or administrative district practice. As such, the practice is unenforceable, the judges ruled.

Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote in a footnote that the Court of Appeals didn’t undertake to render an advisory opinion as to whether a substantively similar rule, if duly promulgated, would contravene the Open Courts Clause of the Indiana Constitution or Indiana Code Section 33-37-3-2.
 

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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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