ILNews

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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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