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Bills for additional magistrates, judges move forward

February 25, 2019

Several counties looking for additional judicial help may get what they are hoping for, now that measures authorizing the positions are moving toward passage in the Indiana legislature.  

Four pieces of legislation — House Bill 1118, House Bill 1057, House Bill 1155 and House Bill 1173 —  request additional magistrate judges or judges be added in the Vanderburgh, Howard, Clark and Tippecanoe County courts. All four passed the House without opposition and await action in the Senate.

Howard County requested one additional magistrate judge to help lower jail populations and foster efficiency, while Vanderburgh County requested two magistrates — one each in circuit and superior court.

Clark County, ranked ninth among Indiana counties in a 2017 Weighted Caseload Report, has requested two new circuit courts to aid with its severely heavy caseload. Likewise, Tippecanoe County requested an additional superior court to lighten its load, which Tippecanoe Superior Court Judge Randy Williams said is “needed and necessary.”

“When you look at the numbers of those courts, you see the need,” Williams said. He said a magistrate judge is assigned to certain court tasks, takes jail calls and is on call at night, while other judicial officers take turns covering weekends.

Not all courts, however, will get the aid they sought this session. House Bill 1612, which requested one magistrate judge be added to the Spencer Circuit Court, did not receive a hearing by the Courts and Criminal Code committee.

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