More reforms that could address “forum shopping” in Marion County Small Claims courts will be undertaken this month, the judge presiding over a review of township court operations said.
Marion Circuit Judge Louis Rosenberg made the announcement Tuesday at a news conference that also opened the 30-day public comment period for new rules for Marion County Small Claims courts. Proposed rules are expected to be posted Tuesday at www.in.gov/judiciary/supreme/ and www.indy.gov under the Circuit Court link, and comments may be made through Oct. 5. The new rules will be adopted, modified or rejected by Oct. 12. If adopted, the proposed rules will take effect Jan. 1.
Those proposed rules don’t address the practice of large filers concentrating in particular township courts, but Rosenberg said discussions on how to address forum shopping would begin Sept. 19 with the rules committee of the Indiana Supreme Court.
“I view this as kind of a coordinated effort with the Supreme Court,” he said.
Rosenberg said the rules would bring uniformity to the nine township courts, standardizing hours, forms, filing fees and notice of the rights of litigants, particularly those representing themselves. The rules also would require, 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.
The rules were developed 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 in the township courts.
Rosenberg said the proposed rules would go a long way toward improving the credibility of the small claims courts as a fair forum.
“It’s a good first step in the right direction,” said Christine Hayes Hickey of Rubin & Levin P.C., who served on the Small Claims Rules Advisory Committee.
Comments on the proposed rules may be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line “Public comment on local rules.”