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Dickson: Lawmakers’ help needed to fix Marion County Small Claims courts

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Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson told a joint session of the General Assembly Wednesday that lawmakers’ help was needed to fix Marion County Township Small Claims Courts, which have been plagued by allegations of forum shopping and other criticism.

“Systemic change is imperative, and this requires legislative action,” Dickson said in his State of the Judiciary speech. He noted local leadership and rules changes instituted after a task force examined problems in the courts “can only scratch the surface.”

Reforming the township courts in Indianapolis was one of three judicial items Dickson said would require legislation. Others include bringing the abstract of judgment into the digital age. The court has been working with clerks and other stakeholders, he said, “in an effort to modernize this relic of the quill pen era. We need your help.”

Lawmakers in the future also should “consider shifting more and more funding of the judicial branch expenses from local government to state funding. For many reasons, this is wise and sound public policy, and it is used effectively in many other states.”

Dickson’s second State of the Judiciary address comes in a short session when lawmakers won’t be hashing out a budget or doing much heavy lifting on financial matters, and he didn’t lobby hard for funding.

“Indiana’s judges are very, very busy; we are extremely challenged but quite gratified every day. We could do even better with more resources,” he said at the outset.

He said the judiciary is “an amazing value to Hoosiers,” spending only 9 cents of every $10 collected by state and local units of governments, and returning more than half of those expenditures in collected revenue.

Mandatory reporting of pro bono hours for Indiana attorneys is moving forward. “We are working to have such a program in place in the coming months,” he said, noting an overview of civil cases statewide recently showed 63 percent of litigants were without counsel.

“When people are in court without a lawyer, bad things happen,” he said.

Meanwhile, Dickson said courts would assist with implementation of the Legislature’s “masterful achievement” of revising Indiana’s Criminal Code. “A product of multiple years of thoughtful efforts and difficult negotiations, the result was an outstanding piece of legislation,” he said.

The full text of Dickson’s address may be viewed on the court’s website.
 

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  1. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  2. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  3. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

  4. Why do so many lawyers get away with lying in court, Jamie Yoak?

  5. Future generations will be amazed that we prosecuted people for possessing a harmless plant. The New York Times came out in favor of legalization in Saturday's edition of the newspaper.

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