Hamilton County to get new court, 4 counties to get new magistrates

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Five Indiana counties will get additional judicial resources after Gov. Eric Holcomb signed legislation allowing for additional magistrates and courts.

The governor has also signed controversial legislation revoking a new court previously approved in Delaware County.

Decatur, Hancock, Huntington and Lake counties will each receive one new magistrate while Hamilton County will open a seventh superior court under House Enrolled Act 1064. Holcomb signed the legislation last week, creating Public Law 123.

The legislation provides that the new Hamilton Superior Court judge will be elected in 2022 and will take office in January 2023. The new magistrates in Decatur, Hancock and Huntington counties will jointly serve the circuit and superior courts, while the Lake County magistrate will be dedicated to Lake Superior Court Division 4.

The requests for new judicial resources earned the endorsement of the Interim Study Committee on Courts and the Judiciary, which heard testimony in the fall about growing caseloads and overextended resources.

But HEA 1064 also includes a controversial provision eliminating the sixth Delaware Circuit Court that had been scheduled to open next year.

Rep. Bob Cherry, the Greenfield Republican who authored HEA 1064, said he’d heard from Delaware County officials that the county could not fund another court.  Sen. Mike Gaskill, a Pendleton Republican who introduced similar legislation in the Indiana Senate, said county officials did not have a “firm grasp” on the legislative process for creating a new court, leading to the request to revoke the sixth court.

Democratic lawmakers, however warned of setting a dangerous precedent where courts could easily be granted then revoked.

Gaskill’s bill, Senate Enrolled Act 152, was also signed by Holcomb in early April.

Finally, PL 123 continues the process of converting Marion County commissioners into magistrate judges, converting 27 judicial officers.

The legislation is set to take effect July 1.

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