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New legislation streaming in

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An Indiana Court of Appeals expansion, executing the mentally ill, and how judges find representation in mandate litigation are just a few proposals already on tap for the General Assembly to consider this session.

The day before lawmakers are set to return to Indianapolis and begin the long budget-setting session, more than 100 separate pieces of legislation have been filed and many have direct impact on the legal community.

• New district: On a recommendation from the Commission on Courts, Senate Bill 35 proposes establishing a new sixth district for Indiana's intermediate appellate court, bumping up the number of judges from 15 to 18 starting in January 2010. This would be the first new district since 1991, and would include a judge from each of the court's original three districts.

The legislation declares this an emergency act, noting a price tag of $1.3 million in the first year and $2.2 in the following two years - complete with an array of jurists, law clerks, and administrative staff that would be needed. If passed, the Judicial Nominating Commission would have to interview and recommend three candidates by November, and the governor would have the final say on who'd be appointed to the new panel.

• Mandate: Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, proposed Senate Bill 44 that deals with judicial mandate representation, a direct result of mandate cases the Indiana Supreme Court has ruled on in recent years and discussions this past summer about how cash-strapped communities can ill afford those legal costs. The bill would require the Indiana Attorney General to represent any court that has issued a mandate for funds for court operation or court-related functions, and the state would not be allowed to reimburse a judge for any costs related to hiring a private attorney on mandate actions.

• Death penalty: Senate Bill 22 prohibits the death penalty from being issued to anyone with a severe mental illness, and sets up a procedure to determine whether a murder defendant can be classified that way. This legislation is similar to measures proposed in the past, and comes in the wake of suggestions from a commission created in honor of the late Sen. Anita Bowser, who died in 2007 and was an advocate of death penalty legislation.

• Grandparent visitation: Senate Bill 26, authored by Sen. John Waterman, R-Shelburn, provides that a child's grandparent can seek visitation rights when a parent or guardian unreasonably denies or restricts visitation. The proposal eliminates current conditions for which grandparents can seek visitation rights.

A complete rundown of active legislation can be found online.

Aside from those issues, the General Assembly will likely spend most of its time focusing on the state's two-year budget and dealing with money issues stemming from previously passed property tax laws. Local government reform, including court changes, is expected to be a significant topic of discussion, though observers wonder how much may actually pass given the financial focus.

The Senate can file bills through Jan. 15, while the House of Representatives has until the end of January. Lawmakers have until April 29 for any action this session.

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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