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Marion County Small Claims bill may be headed for study committee

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Legislation that would require Marion County Small Claims judges to select among themselves an administrative judge to carry out the duties currently performed by the Marion Circuit judge passed the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday. The committee also is asking for a study committee to look at Small Claims court administration.

Senate Bill 366, authored by Sens. Scott Schneider and R. Michael Young, Republicans from Indianapolis, creates a small claims administrative judge position within the court. The administrative judge will have several duties, including adopting uniform rules for conducting the business of the Small Claims courts. The administrator will serve for a minimum term of 12 months.  

SB 366 also asks the Legislative Council to assign to the Commission on Courts or other study committee the tasks of studying small claims court administration, the distribution of judicial resources in small claims actions, and other related matters.

Marion County’s Small Claims courts have been under scrutiny for several years over practices perceived to favor heavy-volume debt collection filers, allegations of forum shopping, and other problems that have come to light.

Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson urged legislators to reform the courts in his State of the Judiciary Address earlier this month.

SB 366 also addresses garnishment, making changes to the maximum part of the aggregate disposable earnings of an individual for any workweek that is subjected to garnishment to enforce the payment of judgments against the individual. Upon a showing of cause, the minimum garnishment could be as little as 10 percent of a person’s disposable earnings. I.C. 24-4.5-5-105 currently allows 25 percent of disposable earnings to be garnisheed to satisfy judgments.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also passed Senate Bill 109. The bill requires Indiana justices and judges on the Court of Appeals to retire at the age that judges of the Circuit and Superior courts are required to retire. Currently, justices and appeals judges are required to step down when they turn 75. Trial court judges have no mandatory retirement age.
 

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