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Saturday, March 02, 2013

Ind. Courts - How does the Marion County Clerk make special judge assignments?

That was apparently the objective of a formal complaint (13-FC-64) to the Indiana Public Access Counselor, resulting in this March 1, 2013 response. Some quotes:

In your formal complaint, you provide that on November 14, 2012, you submitted a written request to the Clerk for records related to Special Judge Assignments made by the Clerk under LR49-TR-79.1-227. On January 24, 2013, after speaking with representatives from the Clerk's office regarding the task of compiling the records that would be responsive to your request, you amended your request in writing. You request now sought a front and back copy of certain 3x5 index cards (“Cards”) maintained by the Clerk that contained information regarding each Special Judge in Marion County. You informed the Clerk if such copies were provided and if the Clerk were to confirm the accuracy of the records, you would consider your request for records to be satisfied. On February 9, 2012, you were informed via voicemail that you would be allowed to inspect the Cards, but the Clerk would not provide copies. Mr. Hohl allegedly stated that the Cards were not public record as they were “internal work-product.” You allege that Mr. Hohl failed to cite to a statute in denying your request for copies. You believe that the Cards are public record under the APRA and that the Clerk may not deny your request for copies.

In response to your formal complaint, Mr. Hohl advised that the Clerk has been working with you for several months to address your concerns about the process employed for the random reassignment of judges in Marion County as well as other public records requests. Mr. Hohl provided that the process for assigning random judges is very rudimentary. The Clerk uses 3x5 index cards, one for each of the Courts in Marion County. The top card is removed and placed on the bottom of the pile, and the new "top" card is where the case is reassigned. The Clerk has allowed you to inspect the Cards and answered all of your questions concerning your request and the Clerk's processes. As the Cards are part of an internal court operation, Mr. Hohl does not believe that they are public record and therefore your request for copies was denied. Mr. Hohl advised that the Clerk has concerns that a copy of the Card could be used improperly if provided outside the agency.

Counselor Hoage's 3-page opinion concludes:
For the foregoing reasons, it is my opinion that the Cards are a public record of the Clerk pursuant to I.C. § 5-14-3-2(n). Further, it is my opinion that the Clerk acted contrary to section 9(c) of the APRA in denying your request by not citing to the specific exemption or exemptions that would allow it to withhold the record in question.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 2, 2013 11:35 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts