INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed SEA 126, establishing a fourth superior court in Kosciusko County, effective July 1, 2019. The bill was signed late Wednesday.
“We’re glad,” said Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed. “We thought it might be a year from now, so we were prepared for 2019.”
“We need it,” said Reed, “The residents of the county who go to court will benefit from it.”
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. Those figures have shown the four judges in the county have been doing the work of 5.96 judges. It’s been 20 years since the county has made any changes in the number of courts.
Reed noted figures already submitted to the office of court services shows criminal filings were up 20 percent by the third quarter. He stated the case load for Judge David Cates in Kosciusko Superior Court 1, was at 1.81 (judges needed) in 2016. Due to the number of juvenile and CHIN cases, which take a lot of time, it’s expected his case load will jump to more than two this year. “He’s doing the job, theoretically of two people,” Reed said.
“I estimated, based on the first two-thirds of the year, through August, if I extrapolate the
numbers, I will run at 1.5, David over 2.07; Torrey (Bauer, Superior Court 2) at 1, Joe (Sutton, Superior Court 3) at 1.1. That’s 5.67. Theoretically four judges doing the job of 5 1/2 guys, if you allocate (the time) that they suggest.”
It is still too early to know what court cases will be handled in the new Superior Court 4. It could be the new court be designated to handle domestic cases.
“The original plan was to allocate cases from Circuit and Superior 1 courts to populate the new court’s caseload. As a new caseload allocation plan is due in 2019, the timing of the new court allows for planning for efficient caseload allocation among all of our courts. Our judges will look at caseload numbers this fall, and present a plan to the Indiana Supreme Court for approval. I expect public notice of the plan to occur next winter or early spring,” said Cates.
“Adding a new court will improve timely access to justice for Kosciusko County residents, in a cost effective measure. Fast and speedy trials are constitutionally guaranteed to criminal defendants, resulting in some civil matters being ‘bumped’ from the court schedule to a later date. An additional court will help reduce docket congestion (even with the new court, Kosciusko County judges will still rank in the top half of the metric of “busiest judges” in the state). Dispute resolution – both civil and criminal – will be more timely, and jail overcrowding will be eased. The judges appreciate the efforts of our county’s legislators, and the planning and foresight of our commissioners and council, to make this happen,” Cates said.
Reed noted because of the spare courtroom, added when the Justice Building was remodeled in 2001, staff and office equipment will be all that is needed to set up the new court.
“Kosciusko County Courts have been overburdened for quite some time … I am hopeful and optimistic that the creation of the new court will help alleviate the overwhelming court-caseload and reduce the amount of time necessary to complete a case,” stated Dan Hampton, Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney.
“The Kosciusko County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office would like to thank the following key individuals for their hard work, time, and commitment in making this needed court possible: Kosciusko Judges Reed, Cates, Bauer, and Sutton, as well as the authors of the bill, Sen. (Randy) Head and Sen. (Ryan) Mishler, along with all of the co-authors and sponsors throughout the legislative process, and the representatives of the Kosciusko County Council, Kosciusko County Commissioners, and the Kosciusko County Bar Association.”