Bills requesting additional judicial help for three more Indiana counties are moving swiftly through the Indiana General Assembly now that a committee has unanimously approved their advancement.
House Bill 1155, House Bill 1057, and House Bill 1332 all received a stamp of approval Wednesday from the Senate Judiciary Committee. Each bill requests the addition or appointment of more judges and magistrate judges to their respective county’s circuit and superior courts.
For Clark County, HB 1155 requests two additional circuit court judges to aid in lightening heavy caseloads currently handled by four circuit court judges and three magistrate judges. Likewise, HB 1057 would grant Vanderburgh County two new magistrate judges to serve in circuit and superior court.
Concerned with the lack of minority representation in Vanderburgh County, Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis, noted that he had yet to hear from the county regarding its promise to diversify its bench per his request during a 2018 Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary.
“I think it’s in the best interest of the community when you do that,” Taylor said. “So, I just want to make sure that when we approve these judges, that we talk about communities like yours. … A community like that should have some representation on the bench.”
The committee also heard testimony on HB 1332, which would appoint four new Marion County Commissioners for eventual conversion to magistrate judges. Two of those judges would be Democrats, and the other two, Republican. If granted, Marion Superior Courts would then be able to appoint 24 full-time magistrates equally divided between political parties.
“It’s being phased in so the increased cost to the state each year is manageable,” Sen. Jim Merritt said. “Each year since 2010, more commissioners have been converted into magistrates. This is the next step in the process.”
Merritt noted that the conversions would be expected to be complete in the next two years. Marion Superior Civil 2 Judge Timothy Oakes testified in support of HB 1332, noting it’s the sixth time he’s advocated for more magistrates.
“We’re almost there,” Oakes said. “This will give us four more conversions and that will leave us with three left.”
All three bills passed the committee 9-0 and advance to the full Senate.