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Fewer cases being decided by juries, according to Indiana Supreme Court stats

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The Indiana court system held 1,338 jury trials during 2012, continuing what court officials described as a “significant decline” across the state.

A statistical profile of the state’s judiciary was released Monday by the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration. These reports are published annually and provide details about the court operations at the county and appellate levels.

During calendar year 2012, 1.6 million new cases were filed in Indiana trial courts. Cities, towns, townships, counties and the state spent $386 million to operate the court and generated $205 million in revenue from filing fees, court costs, user fees and fines.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson pointed to the change in the number of jury trials, particularly on the civil side, and said that is a concern “because the jury trial is the lifeblood of the American judicial system.”

The 2012 total represents more than 1,000 fewer jury trials than was held just seven years ago. Jury trials peaked in 2005 at 2,450 and have been on a downward trend since, bottoming out at 1,298 in 2011.

Dickson attributed the decline, in part, to the growth of mediation and more parties working together to resolve their differences instead of having a court impose a solution.

“It’s a concern only in the sense that we don’t want to see jury trials disappear because jury trials are where the skills of lawyers are honed and developed and carried on,” the chief justice said. “…It’s a wonderful system but the reality is that many people, because of the element of risk involved, are seeing the wisdom of trying to work out (their disputes).”

However, the statistics also show a decrease in the number of cases referred to alternative dispute resolution. In 2010, a high of 7,602 cases were referred while two years later in 2012 the total had shrunk to 5,951 cases.

Mirroring the drop in jury trials is the fall in the number of new cases filed. The 2012 figure of 1.6 million is the lowest number of cases filed in the past decade. The peak came just as the Great Recession started in 2008 with 2 million new cases filed.

Court officials were at a loss to pinpoint the reason for the decline. However, they did point to the plunge in infraction cases being filed, sinking from the high of 930,004 in 2008 to 662,213 in 2012.

In 2012, 307,612 cases included pro se litigants. Lilia Judson, executive director of the Indiana Supreme Court Division of State Court Administration, noted the accuracy of that number is in question because of the difficulty of culling the information from counties that use a case management system other than Odyssey. If anything, she said, the number of pro se litigants is underreported.

Dickson said the driver behind more people going into court without a lawyer is difficult to determine and purely anecdotal, but “the sound assumption” is the economy.

“But, of course, it is a Constitutional right for the citizen to use the court without anybody representing them,” Dickson said. “…Some do it voluntarily as a matter of choice. I think most do it either because they don’t have the resources to get a lawyer or they don’t know how to go about it. And they don’t know how to get one of the free lawyers that may be available. We hope to improve that.”

Other highlights in 2012 include:
•    Murder case filings ballooned 21.8 percent to 235
•    Mortgage foreclosure case filings rose 11.9 percent to 33,876
•    Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases increased 6.2 percent to 11,325
•    Case filings for termination of parental rights, Class A felony and juvenile delinquency all declined.

Read more about the Indiana Supreme Court report in the Nov. 6 issue of Indiana Lawyer.

 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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