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Legislation impacting judiciary awaiting final approval

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Several bills that may alter the look of the Indiana judiciary await final approval during the waning days of the 2011 legislative session.

Senate Bill 463 removes the mandatory retirement age for trial court judges in Indiana. Current state statute calls for Superior court judges to be less than 70 years old when taking office or, in some cases, to retire by the age of 75. If SB 463 becomes law, statutory provisions requiring mandatory retirement from the bench for Superior court judges would be removed.

The bill also provides for the creation of a fourth Superior court in Johnson County. The judge presiding over this court would be elected during the November 2014 general election, with the court beginning operation in January 2015.

SB 463 gained approval of both the Senate and House of Representatives, and it has been returned to the Senate for concurrence with House amendments. The Senate dissented from the House amendments, so the legislation went in to conference committee Tuesday.

House Bill 1266 has also been approved by both legislative chambers, and it awaits concurrence by House members of amendments made in the Senate.

HB 1266 establishes unified Circuit courts in Clark, Madison, and Henry counties. Following the merger of the Circuit and Superior courts in those counties, the unified Circuit Court of Clark County would have four judges effective Jan. 1, 2012; the unified Circuit Court of Madison County would have six judges effective July 1, 2011; and the unified Circuit Court of Henry County would have three judges effective July 1, 2011.

The bill also makes changes to the method used to elect and retain Superior Court County Division judges in Lake County, moving all Superior judges in the county to the merit-selection process.

Current law provides that the four judges of the Lake Superior County Division are elected by voters every six years. HB 1266 provides that those judges be nominated by the Lake County Superior Court Judicial Nominating Commission and appointed by the governor. Judges would be subject every six years to a retention vote by the Lake County electorate, as are the other Civil and Criminal Superior judges in the county.

In addition, HB 1266 calls for all Circuit, Superior, and Probate courts to have: (1) original and concurrent jurisdiction in all civil and criminal cases; (2) de novo appellate jurisdiction of appeals from city and town courts; and (3) in Marion County, de novo appellate jurisdiction of appeals from township small claims courts. It also prolongs the expiration date of the Indiana Commission on Courts to June 30, 2015.

While it appeared that the automated record-keeping fee that is used to fund Indiana’s statewide case management system was going to be cut this year rather than increased as initially requested in legislation supported by the state’s Judicial Technology and Automation Committee, a provision to keep the status quo has been inserted into the proposed state budget.

The proposed budget calls for the fee to remain at the current level of $7 for another two years, then decrease to $4 after June 30, 2013. Without legislative action this year, the fee would expire July 1. The proposed budget also calls for the public defense administration fee to be increased from $3 to $5 effective July 1.
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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