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General Assembly wraps up on time

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The 2011 session of the Indiana General Assembly ended on schedule despite the weeks-long walkout by House Democrats. Now, bills impacting Indiana’s courts and legal community make their way to the governor’s desk.

House Enrolled Act 1266, which originally dealt with creating a unified Clark Circuit court, became a more expansive bill as the session progressed. Language from other bills was added to HEA 1266, including the establishment of Madison and Henry courts into unified Circuit courts. The changes become effective July 1; for Clark County, the changes take effect Jan. 1, 2012.

HEA 1266 also changes how Lake Superior County judges are chosen. Now, instead of being elected, those judges will be nominated by the Lake County Superior Court judicial nomination commission and appointed by the governor. These judges will be up for retention every six years.

The bill also ends the mandatory retirement age of 70 for Superior and County court judges. This language is also in Senate Enrolled Act 463, which passed out of the Senate after a conference committee. As of Indiana Lawyer daily deadline, both bills had yet to be signed by Gov. Mitch Daniels.  

House Enrolled Actl 1153 has expanded the types of people who may participate in problem-solving court programs and when and how a problem-solving court may end someone’s participating in the program. The bill says that parents or guardians of a juvenile accepted into a problem-solving court program is financially responsible for court service fees and chemical testing expenses, or other fees and expenses assessed against the juvenile. HEA 1153 also includes details on the Criminal Law and Sentencing Policy Study Committee. The bill is ready for enrollment as of Indiana Lawyer daily deadline.

Senate Enrolled Act 582 deals with settlement conferences in residential foreclosures and would make some of the Mortgage Foreclosure Best Practices part of state statute. In January, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller petitioned the Indiana Supreme Court to promulgate an order requiring all trial courts to observe and enforce the practices. In February, the Indiana Supreme Court began accepting comment on the proposed best practices for mortgage foreclosure cases to decide whether all or some of the best practices should be made into rules or remain advisory only. Comment is still being accepted through May 30.   

The budget bill passed by legislators includes the automated record-keeping fee, which was originally introduced in SB 301. Unlike the original bill that called for increasing the fee – which would pay for the Indiana Supreme Court’s Judicial Technology and Automation Committee’s implementation of a statewide case management system – the budget calls for the $7 fee to decrease to $5 after June 30, 2011. The budget also calls for increasing the public defense administration fee to $5 from $3.

The legislation also says a salary increase for full-time judges and appellate judges that would otherwise occur under Indiana Code Section 33-38-5-8.1 during the fiscal years of 2011 and 2012 must be approved by the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court. The governor had not signed the budget legislation as of the newspaper’s deadline.

Gov. Daniels has already signed several other bills including: SEA 169 on probate, trusts, and transfer on death transfers; HEA 1215, which allows for a protected person to attend a hearing through the use of closed-circuit television; and SEA 495, which prohibits a school corporation from using money received from the state to bring or join an action against the state. The law does allow for using state money if the school is challenging an adverse decision by a state agency, board, or commission.

To see what legislation the governor has before him or has signed, visit the governor’s Bill Watch page.

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