Supreme Court: 45 Counties Need More Judges
New cases at 7-year low, but more time-consuming felony cases are up
Chief Justice Brent Dickson (pictured left) (WIBC.com photo: Eric Berman)
Indiana court filings have dipped to their lowest level in seven years. But judges' caseloads aren't declining with them.
Chief Justice Brent Dickson speculates the high cost of litigation, along with increased emphasis on mediation and other alternatives to going to court, may be bringing down the number of lawsuits.
But the Supreme Court uses a weighting system to calculate how much time a judge needs for different kinds of cases. By that measurement, 45 counties need more judges. While the grand total of new cases was down 10% from 2010, felony cases rose three-percent last year to an all-time high. Those cases take more time. And Dickson says a greater focus on community correction programs and other efforts to reduce the number of repeat offenders has been successful, but may be another contributor to the increasing judicial workload.
The court calculates the state needs 122 more judges and magistrates to be fully staffed, a third of them in three of the seven largest counties: Marion, Allen and Vanderburgh. The court sees a need for another 13 judges in the Indianapolis "doughnut counties" of Hamilton, Hendricks, Johnson, Hancock and Shelby.
Overall, the court calculates judges are doing 27% more work than should be expected of them.
A legislative study committee has recommended adding three new magistrates in Hamilton and Hendricks Counties, and another judge in Owen County.
The statistics are contained in the court's annual Judicial Service Report. The 1,700-page report is used to help the judicial branch assess its needs.
Among the report's other findings: just 5% of all cases go to trial, and just .1% are heard by a jury. 20% of all filings are traffic tickets, while another 36% are either dismissed, settled, or resolved via guilty plea.