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Justice touts Odyssey, counties seek addition judicial officers

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The Commission on Courts meeting Wednesday contained some familiar elements: Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan testified regarding Odyssey and two trial judges have once again asked for an additional judicial officer.

Justice Sullivan kicked off the meeting, giving commission members an update on the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee project, Odyssey, a case management system being implemented in counties. The justice touted the benefits of counties utilizing the voluntary CMS, and showed videos to enhance his message.

A commission member asked a question regarding data mining the information maintained by Odyssey, to which Justice Sullivan replied the information could be helpful to legislators to do their work, and that there are limitless opportunities for analysis of the data. He cited funding recently given to the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute by the federal government to study the issue of racial profiling of traffic stops.

Justice Sullivan also explained how this year’s cut by the General Assembly to the automated record keeping fee, which funds Odyssey, will impact implementation of the system. The fee decreased from $7 to $5 on July 1. He said they’ve had to reduce staff size somewhat and are in the process of re-writing consulting contracts. The fee reduction will also slow down the rate at which Odyssey can be installed.

Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts, who is also a member of the Commission on Courts, testified on behalf of his county asking to replace an Allen Circuit Court hearing officer with a magistrate position. He said this is the third or fourth time he has come with the request. One of the reasons he cited for wanting to make John Kitch a magistrate is that he wants to be able to keep him as an employee.

Owen Circuit Judge Frank Nardi also came with request that he has made before the commission in the past – he seeks a new judge. Currently, Circuit Court consists of him and a part-time referee. He said he would like separate independent courts: that could be done with the creation of a Superior Court or another Circuit Court, or the referee could be made into a magistrate.

Hendricks Superior Judges Robert Freese and Stephenie LeMay-Luken requested the addition of up to two magistrates. Judge Freese cited the population growth in Hendricks County and how the county has one judge per 24,000 people. The state averages about 16,000 people per judge. Ideally, they’d like the new magistrate or magistrates to begin July 1, 2012 or Jan. 1, 2013.

The judges presented a letter signed by the five Superior Court judges supporting the request. Judge Freese noted that Circuit Judge Jeffrey Boles doesn’t believe there is a need for new magistrates.

Also at the meeting, Judge Nardi announced that he would not be running for re-election. He has been on the bench since 1983.

The commission set its next meeting for Sept. 15, which chairperson Rep. Greg Steuerwald, R-Avon, noted would likely be their last meeting.

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