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Monday, July 14, 2014

Ind. Courts - Still more on "Judges call for an end to Marion County’s small claims court system"

Updating earlier posts from today, the ILB asked some questions of an individual who is very well-attuned to Marion County politics:

ILB Q: Marion county legislators of both parties appear to be totally against reforming our small claims court system. That does not bode well for any change. Can you tell me why there is such total resistance to legislative change, including merging the 9 small claims courts into the county court system?

Answer:

Most state legislators from Marion County are from a particular area of Marion Co, i.e. just Perry Township, or just Lawrence Township. The judges of those small claims courts are politically, or their family members are politically, very active. Thus, the small claim court judges (and their families or friends or staff who are precinct committeemen or ward chairman) are joined at the hip politically with the legislators (and their family or friends who are precinct committeeman or ward chairman in that same township that elects the small claims court judge). They see each other at club meetings and fundraisers, support the others’ campaigns, and usually are friends politically if not socially.

To suggest that the small claims courts and their judge and their staffs and their families all lose their jobs and those very same people are the ones who are supporting, endorsing, and in rare cases financially supporting your campaign for legislature is not the ideal position for a state legislator from Marion Co to take. So most don’t.

That also explains why township reform fails, why the Shepard Kernan report failed, etc. You are asking a legislator to financially and personally hurt not just one, but MANY of his supporters, and not just supporters but KEY supporters.

Good government always meets tough opposition at personal interest.

ILB Q: Yes, and there doesn't seem any way around it in either case.

Answer:

Well, you can chip at it.

The implemented reforms, as I understand them, have nearly choked out Decatur Township Small Claims Court. If this happens, then others could follow suit. If enough follow suit, it becomes easier to do this county wide.

Of course, looking at the ‘solution’ becomes interesting as well. Per weighted caseload and the like, do we add 4 Superior Courts, 4 more magistrates, 4 more court staffs and court spaces? If so, where and how?

Do you make a slight change re: authority of magistrates and commissioners to handle these courts without the sign-off of presiding judges (like traffic court used to be and some counties still have?).

Are you bringing all those cases downtown?

Is it a special "small claims court” like drug court or juvenile court or traffic court or is it spread among the (now 12, then 16) civil court judges?

How do you have a court, much less the resources, still out in the townships? Don’t they all have to come downtown then? Is that really better for plaintiffs OR defendants?

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 14, 2014 04:35 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts