Bills for new Howard, Tippecanoe judicial officers advance

Two of four House measures in the Senate that would bring judicial relief to some Indiana counties were given the go-ahead to proceed Wednesday, but two other bills have yet to move forward.  

House Bill 1118, House Bill 1173, and House Bill 1155 — all requesting judicial help for Howard, Tippecanoe and Clark counties in the form of judges, magistrate judges or additional courts — were presented to the Senate Judiciary Committee by Senate sponsors and House authors. The measures for Howard and Tippecanoe counties passed the committee 10-0 after advocates cited the need to alleviate heavy caseloads.

In presenting HB 1118, Sen. James Buck, R-Kokomo, informed the committee of Howard County’s desperate need for a magistrate judge, pointing out that the courts have been overrun by litigants. Buck said the new magistrate judge would fill an already available courtroom and adjudicate jail matters on site, relieving current judges.

Likewise, Rep. Sharon Negele, R-Attica, advocated for the addition of a new Tippecanoe Superior Court requested in HB 1173, which would also lighten judges’ caseloads.

But Clark County’s HB 1155 was held for the following week, which requests the addition of two circuit court judges to the county’s current team of four circuit court judges and three magistrates. Sen. Ronald Grooms, R-Jeffersonville, said the additions would help current judges more efficiently manage Clark County’s severely heavy caseload, which ranked it as ninth among Indiana counties in a 2017 Weighted Caseload Report.

Vanderburgh County is also requesting additional judicial help in House Bill 1057, which would grant the county two new magistrate judges to serve in circuit and superior court. HB 1057 has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee but was not heard Wednesday.

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