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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ind. Courts - "Trial courts’ caseload slips for a 3rd year"

Niki Kelly of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reports today on yesterday's press conference (photo here) held by Chief Justice Dickson on the just released 2011 caseload statistics. Some quotes:

INDIANAPOLIS – The number of new cases filed in Indiana’s trial court system dropped for the third year in a row, according to data released Monday.

About 1.68 million cases were filed in 2011, compared with 1.86 million in 2010. Overall, new case filings are down 11 percent since 2002 with an even sharper decline of 16 percent since a peak of 2 million new cases in 2008. * * *

Dickson said despite a declining caseload overall in many areas of the state – including in the appellate courts – he will be asking legislators for additional court funding in 2013.

He said the numbers don’t fully explain the quality of justice needed, citing examples such as the amount of time and money needed to serve those who don’t speak English or technological improvements needed to make courts more efficient.

State Court Administration Executive Director Lilia Judson said the portion of the annual report that jumped out at her was the large burden counties are bearing related to the judicial system, especially for adult probation services and public defender services.

Kelly's story also focuses on the Allen County statistics:
Allen County case filings continue to rise, though. In 2011, almost 98,600 new cases were filed – up from 91,000 in 2009.

On top of new cases, the system is also still dealing with cases pending from prior years. For instance, in 2011, Allen County judges and magistrates disposed of more than 100,000 cases – some of which might be several years old.

Jury trials are down statewide and in Allen County.

There were 1,298 jury trials – both civil and criminal – in the state’s 92 counties in 2011. Eighty-eight were in Allen County – down from 114 in 2009.

Re NW Indiana, Dan Carden writes for the NWI Times:
Filings in Indiana's courts were down for the third straight year in 2011, but judges and court staff in Lake and Porter counties are still overburdened, according to a new report released Monday. * * *

Infractions, typically traffic violations, made up 43 percent of new filings, followed by criminal (17 percent), small claims (15 percent) and civil (13 percent). Ordinance violations, juvenile cases and adoptions made up the remaining 12 percent.

Lake County courts, including the 10 city and town courts, saw 188,199 cases filed last year, of which 48 percent were infractions. Porter County had 37,475 new cases, half of which were infractions. * * *

Dickson said he plans to ask the General Assembly next year to boost funding for the courts to help relieve the workload burdens on many judges.

According to the court's weighted caseload measurement system, Porter County courts are operating at 133 percent of workload capacity, while courts in Lake County are at 109 percent.

The average Indiana court is operating at 127 percent of capacity. The report estimates that 122 more judges are needed to meet the workload demand.

Maureen Hayden of the CNHI Statehouse Bureau reports:
INDIANAPOLIS — The numbers of criminal and civil cases filed in Indiana are on a downward trend in a wide range of categories, from murder charges to mortgage foreclosures, according to a newly released report that also shows an upward trend in the money that counties are spending to keep offenders out of prison.

The 2011 Indiana Judicial Service Report, released Monday, shows the overall number of criminal and civil cases being handled by judges and court personnel down to about where it was a decade ago.

The 1.6 million cases filed in 2011 marks the second lowest number of cases filed in Indiana courts since 2002, and shows a significant drop from the nearly 1.9 million cases filed in 2008. But that 1.6 million number – which covers everything from felony criminal prosecutions to divorce cases – also shows the frequency in which Indiana residents come into contact with the state’s court system, said Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson. * * *

Dickson credited a variety of factors for the overall drop in criminal and civil cases since 2008, when nearly 2 million cases were filed. Among them, he said, was the increasing cost of civil litigation and attorney fees; the increase in dispute-resolution programs aimed at keeping people out of the courts; and an increase in diversion programs that allow traffic violators and some low-level offenders to avoid criminal charges.

“Strenuous efforts in alternative dispute resolution and mediation are, we think, reaping effects where people are taking responsibilities for settling their own disputes and maintaining control of their lives a little bit better than happens when a matter goes into litigation,” Dickson said.

One area that’s seen a major increase, according to the report: the cost of probation services borne by counties. The cost of providing probation services, which include drug and substance abuse treatment programs, community-based supervision of offenders, and other efforts aimed at keeping offenders out of prison, was up to nearly $90 million in 2011 – an increase of more than $20 million since 2007.

Brandon Smith of Indiana Public Media reports:
Brent Dickson says the state needs to hire more judges and adopt newer technology to help reduce the current judges' caseloads. * * *

Judicial officials set a baseline amount of time they expect each case to take, based on its severity. Murder cases take longer than theft cases, for instance. Using those numbers, the state establishes a baseline amount of work it expects each judge to do.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson says many judges do more than that amount of work, meaning more need to be hired to take some of the pressure off, but Dickson says more judges is not the only solution.

“Other counties try to reconfigure the way they work, share work among themselves and every county has the ability to come up with a system that works best for them. And many of them will do that,” he says. * * *

Dickson says he will also ask the legislature for more funding to use technology to help reduce caseloads and save taxpayer money.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 30, 2012 08:27 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts