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New Marion County Small Claims rules a ‘change in atmosphere’

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A new set of rules for Marion County’s nine township Small Claims courts will make the forums more transparent and put important court information online for the first time, according to the judge overseeing reform efforts.

Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg said the revised rules have been approved and will be posted on the state’s judicial website, www.courts.in.gov. The rules are in response to scrutiny based on accusations of bias in favor of large-volume filers and inconsistent practices among the courts.  

“I think that the most important thing, and I don’t know if it’s going to be easy to quantify, is there will be a change in the atmosphere of the Small Claims Courts,” Rosenberg said. “It’s going to make those courts more transparent.

“The more mundane change will be that you’ll see a great deal more uniformity,” he said.

The rules as proposed standardized hours, forms, filing fees and notice of the rights of litigants, particularly those representing themselves. The draft rules also required, among other things, that court staff wear identifiers, that all parties to a lawsuit have equal access to court case files, and that township judges not be allowed to practice in other township courts.

But the new rules go further based on comments received over the past month, Rosenberg said. Among the additional changes:

  • A website will be developed for all nine township courts. The portal will include the standard forms that will be required in Small Claims actions, and litigants will be able to use the website to check the status of cases in any of the township courts.
  • Landlords who comply with the Indiana security deposit statute and provide tenants an itemized statement of damages will no longer be required to go through an amendment procedure.
  • Litigants will be required to wait at least 30 days after a judgment to file proceedings supplemental.


The push for new rules was spurred by an advisory committee formed after Court of Appeals Judge John Baker and Senior Judge Betty Barteau issued a report that recommended an overhaul in the way the courts were structured and reforms in the way they did business. The study and report followed a Wall Street Journal article citing practices such as “forum shopping” by debt collectors and other large-volume filers.

Rosenberg said the rules aim to address perceptions that courts didn’t always offer litigants level playing fields. “This is creating an atmosphere that will make the courts more evenhanded with the way they’re dealing with litigants,” he said.

The new rules will take effect March 1, Rosenberg said, and a deadline of July 1 has been set to create the new website for the township courts. Rosenberg said the web address has not yet been determined.

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  • Fantastic Changes
    These changes are much needed,and they should go a long way to restoring fairness and impartiality to the small claims courts. Thank you Judge Rosenberg for leading these changes.

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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