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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. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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