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'Rocket docket' now set for juvenile appeals

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New rules from the Indiana Supreme Court this week officially create an expedited "rocket docket" for certain juvenile cases going through the appellate system.

The court issued an order Tuesday amending the Indiana Trial Procedure Rule 59 and Rules of Appellate Procedure 14.1, which now read to specifically address those cases where state funding decisions for placement services are at issue. The amendments took effect Jan. 1, 2009.

These changes come after last year's legislative and state statute revisions contained in House Enrolled Act 1001, which as part of sweeping property-tax reform shifted funding of juvenile detention costs from counties to the state. The law gave the Indiana Department of Child Services more oversight authority of juvenile delinquency, status, and child welfare cases in a move designed to expand Indiana's ability to collect federal reimbursements and make the process more efficiently centralized through the state agency.

Courts and state officials have been working on this procedure since then to make sure those goals can be met while ensuring adequate appellate review.

Now, this expedited process will allow for the DCS and trial courts to get a quick review of any decisions about state funding with which they don't agree. The whole process is aimed at completing an appeal's procedural aspects within 30 days, without factoring in time for any court decision.

Rule 59 outlines how motions to correct error are handled, and this amendment adds a paragraph about orders relating to services, programs or placement of juvenile delinquents or those children in need of services. No motions to correct error will be allowed concerning various juvenile orders or decrees, the rule states.

Appeals of those orders and decrees are dealt with by Appellate Rule 14.1, which outlines the process for items including notice, transcript and records, memoranda, time extensions, rehearings, and petitions to transfer. Notice must be served and the clerk must complete the record within 15 days, and it must take priority over all other appeal transcripts and records, the rule says.

Each side is allowed five days to file a single memorandum, and no extensions are allowed. Rehearings following a court hearing are also prohibited by the rule. Any transfer petitions for the Indiana Supreme Court must be filed within five days after the Court of Appeals decision without any additional filings allowed.

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