The General Assembly Wednesday afternoon passed modest reforms of the nine township small claims courts in Marion County, a far cry from recommendations of multiple judicial studies to restructure the courts.
The House and Senate adopted the conference committee report for Senate Bill 523. The legislation sent to Gov. Mike Pence would keep all nine of the current township courts, but with these changes:
- Jurisdiction will increase from the current $6,000 to $8,000;
- The two townships with the fewest case filings will be identified as “low caseload courts”;
- Requires other township courts to transfer a fee of $1.50 per case filing to the trustee of each township having a low caseload court;
- Requires judges in low caseload courts to identify five days per month in which they can assist judges in the other township courts; and,
- Makes the venues courts of record.
Calls to reform the courts arose years ago amid complaints of forum-shopping by high-volume debt-collection filers who docketed all their cases in selected townships.
The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals effectively ended that practice by ruling that each township was a judicial district. The ruling essentially required cases be filed in the township where a defendant lives or where a transaction took place.