(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second of a four-part series on the Kosciusko County Courts.)
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Kosciusko County judicial system has been shown to need upward of five judges since 1998, based on the Indiana judicial system’s weighted caseload figures. Knowing a change in the way case loads were measured, local judicial officials decided to wait to make a request for a fifth judge and court. It’s been 20 years since the county has made any changes in the number of courts.
Throughout the state all judicial offices kept track of cases and time spent for one month. The computation of those numbers didn’t alter the fact the four judges in Kosciusko County were doing the work of 5.96 judges.
This provided the documentation necessary to petition the state Interim Study Committee on the Courts and Judiciary for a fifth judge and court. This was the first step in the process.
State Sen. Randy Head, a member of the interim study committee, reported the committee unanimously gave its stamp of approval.
“Now it will have to have a bill introduced and will need to get legislators to pass it,” Head stated, noting he is planning to introduce such a bill. “The big thing is the cost,” Head said. “The state pays for the judge’s salary.” A similar bill was presented last year, however it didn’t get far. “The problem (last year) was the high salary and benefit spending.”
Head will be working with Sen. Ryan Mishler in presenting the bill. He noted an advantage Kosciusko County has is it has an extra courtroom. “That testifies to the strong support in doing this … Kosciusko County has been patient and good stewards. They have demonstrated the need and are willing to invest to make the court work,” Head stated.
“They have done everything they can do to prepare. They want and need it. It’s a great way to go about it.”
The Kosciusko Judiciary presented its desire to establish a Kosciusko Superior Court 4 to the Kosciusko County Commissioners and Kosciusko County Council in November 2016. “We believe an additional judicial officer is needed in Kosciusko County and has been for quite some time,” the letter states. That letter from the Joint Courts of Kosciusko County was signed by all four judges.
Documentation, initially to the councils, but also to the study committee,included the 2016 time study regarding caseload assessment and allocation, commissioned by the Indiana Supreme Court. That report showed Kosciusko County was ranked seventh for need of additional judicial resources.
Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed noted those figures, however, undercounted the caseload numbers for his court. Problem-solving cases were not reported. The original figures showed 5.09 judicial officers were needed. When adjusting the report to include the problem-solving cases, the need was 5.22.