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Monday, January 12, 2015

Ind. Courts - The biennial budgeting process provides a look at the Indiana Court's plans

This General Assembly will enact a budget for Indiana government, FYs 2015-16 and 2016-17. All three branches of government will be covered by this biennial budget.

The public participation of the Supreme Court in the budgeting process provides insights into the current and future operations of the Indiana courts not readily available elsewhere.

State Budget Committee Hearings

The formal budget-making process began late in the summer of 2014 with submissions to the State Budget Agency, followed by presentations before the State Budget Committee.

Here is a list of the 2015-17 Budget Committee hearings/presentations that includes links to each agency's submissions:

The presentations before the Budget Committee are video-archived here.

Governor's Recommended Budget

Here is the recommended budget bill that Governor Pence submitted to the General Assembly last week. As you will see, the Governor's recommended budget, as in the past, covers all three branches of government.

Pages 9 (line 49) through 12 (line 38) cover the Judicial Branch.

House and Senate Hearings

The second phase of the budget process is legislative adoption of the budget. The House Ways and Means Committee holds hearings on the proposed budget before sending the budget bill to the floor, and after the bill passes the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee, in a similar manner to the House Ways and Means Committee, conducts public hearings with selected agencies before issuing a committee report. One can anticipate the the Indiana courts will present their budget requests before each house committee.

What have we learned so far - Supreme Court

Here is Chief Justice Rush's presentation to the Budget Committee on Dec. 17th, which was first on the agenda and lasted about 45 minutes. Much reference is made to slides, the ILB is attempting to obtain copies of the slides from the Supreme Court Public Information Officer. Without them the discussion is difficult to follow. Here are some points of interest to the ILB, but you may learn more if you listen for yourself.

The implementation of electronic filing was the lead-off topic. The CJ said [at 5:18] a crucial step for state technology is to implement electronic filing in all our courts statewide. She said they were looking at 3 or 4 pilots, at $2M for the first year and $4M for the second, and that an unlimited license for all e-filing statewide would be $5.2 million. Ch. Kenley asked where that was in the budget request. CJ: Line 60, trial court operations, but that also includes probation salaries. Ch: Could you break it down by electronic filing and probation?

Ch: $5.2 million, is there a tangible savings offset somewhere in the budget? If 90% of savings are, for example, going to be savings in personnel at the county level, the counties are actually not going to fire anyone. So should the counties pay some of this $5.2 million? In other words, the counties won't produce any savings unless you require them to.

The CJ talked about the Odyssey program [14:00], saying the Tax Court had recently gone on the Odyssey system, and the COA would next month.*

The CJ, referring to a slide, went through the Automated Recordkeeping Fee, how much is collected, and how much the Court actually receives, and what will happen when $2 of the fee is sunsetted, but the discussion seemed confusing. [see, starting at 14:37 and 17:00-19:10]

At 21:50, the CJ discussed a slide titled "How are your courts funded?"

There is an interesting discussion with Senator Tallian beginning at 23:50 re the CJ's proposal that the salaries of county chief probation and deputy probation officers be picked up by the State.

What have we learned so far - Tax Court

Here is Tax Court Judge Wentworth's Nov. 19th presentation to the State Budget Committee. It begins at 55:40 of Part I.

Judge Wentworth talked about her court's achievements and about the court's "special role in creating a body of law in a very important area".

The discussion of the Tax Court backlog begins at 1:01:07.**

Judges Wentworth reported that the backlog was in the high 30s, and that the oldest case was over a year old. She said the time should be measured from the time the court took a case under advisement, not the time it was filed.

Judge Wentworth said the solution was not another judge, but another law clerk. She said that law clerks were the drivers of output in an appellate court. The amount of work done is directly related to the number of law clerks. Judges manage a case before it comes under advisement (has a hearing, and she said she sets hearings as soon as a case is fully briefed), but after that it is the law clerks. She is asking for another law clerk, plus an intern.
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* The ILB had a long, critical post on this switchover on Dec. 3, 2014. Note also that the switch seems to directly contradict the plans presented in the Supreme Court's operating budget request for the 2013-2015 biennium, which is why the Dec. post was headed "One step forward followed by two steps back for the appellate docket."

** The ILB posted "A look at the Tax Court" on Sept. 2, 2014, focusing on the Court's backlog, and updated the post on Nov. 18th.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 12, 2015 09:22 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts