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Walkout creates uncertainty in House

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It’s been a controversial week at the Indiana General Assembly with the walkout by many Democrats in the House of Representatives killing several bills in their current forms as legislative deadlines hit.

The flight of the House Democrats to Illinois has caused Speaker of the House Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis, to adjourn until Monday. There is still uncertainty as to when the Democrats may return and if the House would be able to change the rules to move deadlines back a week. The House Rules Committee approved pushing back the deadline for the second and third reading of bills, but the proposal needs to be approved by a quorum on the floor, something that can’t happen until Democrats return.

The walkout hasn’t affected the Senate yet and work continued in that chamber. Several bills of interest to the legal community are now before the House. If the walkout continues, those bills could be affected. Wednesday was the last day for third reading of Senate bills.

Senate Bill 561, which deals with sentencing reform and made it out of the Senate Tuesday, looks to require violent criminals to serve more of their prison sentences. The bill’s “truth in sentencing” provision would ensure violent felons serve 85 percent of their assigned prison time. Right now, it’s only required that those charged with nine specific crimes – including Class A felony battery, rape, or child molesting – serve only 50 percent of their time.

The bill also encourages communities to house those convicted of D felonies and of minor crimes in local jails or work-release facilities. The goal is to avoid an overflow of inmates in the Department of Correction.

Another provision in the bill would require implementation of a better export program for dissemination of case information to clerks. Author Sen. Brent Steele, R-Bedford, said the current case management system doesn’t allow the download of bulk information.

Senate Bill 463, which would repeal or remove provisions that establish a mandatory retirement age for Superior and County Court judges, passed the Senate Feb. 17. Author Sen. Jim Buck, R-Kokomo, described the current law as discriminatory and outdated and said Indiana can’t keep losing valuable members of the judiciary to the statute.

“Allowing judges to serve past 70 helps preserve institutional knowledge and keep experienced courtroom managers on the bench. I look forward to working with House members on this important piece of legislation,” he said in a statement.

Senate Bill 97, on the funding of lawsuits, also passed the Senate last week. The bill deals with consumer legal funding. It has not yet been assigned to a House committee.

Also passing the Senate:
-    Senate Bill 96 that would add another deputy prosecutor in Cass County paid for by the state;
-    Senate Bill 212 on trial court jurisdiction;
-    Senate Bill 214 that would require the attorney general to make certain determinations before entering into a contingency fee contract with a private attorney;
-    Senate Bill 301, an automated record keeping fee, which proposed an increase in the fee to fund a statewide case management system. An amendment decreased the fee after July 1, 2011;
-    Senate Bill 346 on the statute of limitations for an environmental legal action;
-    Senate Bill 520 on application of foreign laws;
-    Senate Bill 530 on merging the offense of criminal deviate conduct into the crime of rape;
-    Senate Bill 540 on the discharge of long-term inmates; and
-    Senate Bill 590 on various immigration matters.
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On Feb. 17, the House passed House Bill 1266 that would establish unified Circuit courts in Clark and Madison counties. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Legislation has started making its way to Gov. Mitch Daniels. By Friday, he had signed two bills into law – SEA 32 on vote centers; and HEA 1450 on unemployment insurance.

A complete list of bills is available on the General Assembly’s website.

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  1. 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

  2. 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!!!

  3. 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.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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