House committee to hear magistrate bills

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Bills that would provide magistrates for three circuit courts in Southern Indiana are scheduled to be considered Jan. 21 by the Indiana House of Representatives Courts and Criminal Code Committee.

The three counties were among seven that had representatives appear before the Interim Study Committee on the Courts and Judiciary during the summer, requesting 11 magistrates. Primarily, the courts said they needed the extra personnel to help with the increasing workload.

On Wednesday, Rep. Thomas Washburne will be making another appeal for a magistrate for Vanderburgh County with House Bill 1058. He authored a bill during the 2014 legislative session that would have allowed Vanderburgh Circuit Court to appoint a full-time magistrate. It passed the House but died in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rep. Steven Stemler, D-Jeffersonville, will present HB 1110, which would give Clark Circuit Court a new magistrate, and Rep. Matthew Ubelhor, R-Bloomfield, will offer HB 1367 which would allow Greene Circuit and Superior courts to jointly appoint one full-time magistrate.

The hearing is scheduled for 1:30 pm in Room 1586-C of the Indiana Statehouse.

In the Senate, two bills calling for magistrates have been filed and assigned to committee but none have been scheduled for a hearing.

Sens. Vaneta Becker, R-Evansville, and James Tomes, R-Wadesville, have jointly authored a bill that would allow the Vanderburgh Circuit Court to appoint a magistrate. In addition, Senate minority floor leader Tim Lanane, D-Anderson, has authored a bill that would enable Madison Circuit Court to appoint a magistrate.    

Of the seven counties that asked for magistrates, no bills have been filed to date on behalf of Marion, Porter and St. Joseph counties.

The House Courts and Criminal Code Committee is also scheduled to hear another measure authored by Washburne which would create a staff attorney pilot program in circuit and superior courts. The staff attorney could be either a senior judge, third-year law student or a licensed attorney who would assist the court with orders involving complex motions, like motions to dismiss or for summary judgment.

The pilot program would be established in five counties of varying populations and administered by the Indiana Judicial Center. The project would expire June 30, 2017.


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