As the interim legislative calendar wound down to make way for the next Indiana General Assembly session, the Commission on Courts has made recommendations on new court requests and discussed issues that impact funding and structure of statewide trial courts.
In its final meeting of the year on Oct. 15, the commission voted 8-0 in favor of legislative recommendation PD 3058 for the existing Clark, Henry, and Madison Circuit and Superior courts to become unified Circuit Courts. Local rules will be amended in Clark County to address any judicial concerns about case allocation, Superior Judge Vicki Carmichael told the commission.
Additionally, the commission voted 8-0 in favor of PD 3318 that would add two judges and three magistrates to the state’s payroll for Allen, Bartholomew, Hamilton, Johnson, and Warrick counties. The commission prioritized the need for new court officers based on the 2009 weighted caseload study if legislators determine insufficient funds exist to pay for all the new judicial resources: New Johnson Superior judge, conversion of a Title IV-D hearing officer to a magistrate for Allen County, and new magistrates for Hamilton, Warrick, and Bartholomew counties.
On a broader financial note for state courts, commission members supported the concept of standardizing jurisdictions of all state trial courts but didn’t draft any legislative language. This idea would make reassigning workload between courts easier and wouldn’t require judges to seek proposed legislative changes for new judicial resources, according to Marion Superior Judge Mark Stoner who has been a part of a larger court reform plan addressing this issue. If centralized state funding for trial courts materializes in the future, this would be a step to helping ease into that, he said. That legislative proposal came along with another that the commission supported by a 7-1 vote (with Sen. Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, opposed) recommending that all city and town court judges be attorneys starting with 2011 elections.
An additional recommendation impacting state court funding was the approval of PD 3436, which would increase the Automated Record-Keeping Fee that largely pays for the statewide case management system’s implementation. That fee would rise from the current $7 to $10, beginning July 1, 2011, and would lower back to the existing level June 30, 2015. Commission members voted 7-1, with Johnson County Clerk Jill Jackson opposing the proposed increase. The commission has proposed this increase in the past, but the General Assembly has so far failed to adopt it.
Rehearing "Court funding bills get approval" IL March 3-16, 2010