Sunday, September 6, 2009

How Indiana Organizes Its Courts

It seems that many people do not know or understand how Indiana organizes its courts.  Indiana has three levels for its courts.

Trial Courts:

Most people understand about trial courts. The divorce or paternity case gets heard by a trial court judge (or the commissioner appointed by the trial judge).  The Indiana Courts web site maintains a portal for Indiana trial courts here.

The Indiana General Assembly sets out by law the organization of each county's court system.

Trial courts will either be Circuit Courts or Superior Courts.  These courts also generally have a civil docket (by which I mean suits for money and family law) and a criminal docket.  I know that Marion County has divided its Superior Courts into those handling only civil cases and those handling only criminal cases.

Because of the workload imposed on the courts, most judges appoint commissioners to handle family law cases.

It is worth remembering that in Indiana most counties still elect their judges (which is not true in all states).  Call that another good reason to vote.

We are also starting a family court program.  So far only twenty-two of our ninety-two counties have joined in this program.  These courts are either Superior or Circuit Courts that are given family court status.

Above the trial courts come the appellate courts.  If one has grounds for an appeal, then it is to the Indiana Court of Appeals that one goes and, maybe, thereafter to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The Appellate Courts:

The Indiana Supreme Court has a page, Appellate Process, describing the appellate process.  I suggest giving it a look.

For more information on the Indiana Supreme Court follow this link and here for the Indiana Court of Appeals.

For those who want to know more, or have a chance to learn or gripe more, should take a look at The challenges of state courts Sept. 9 at IU-Indy:

On Sept. 9, the Indianapolis Lawyer Chapter American Constitution Society for Law and Policy (ACS) will host a panel discussion at the IU School of Law-Indianapolis, where a distinguished panel of jurists will discuss the important matters affecting their respective courts. In addition to discussing issues such as access to justice, regulation of the legal profession, relations with the executive and legislative branches and addressing crises like foreclosure, drugs and immigration, the panel will answer questions from the audience, time permitting.
• Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer, Supreme Court of Ohio
• Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, Supreme Court of Indiana
• Former Chief Justice Laura Denvir Stith, Supreme Court of Missouri
• Panel moderated by Prof. Cynthia A. Baker, Clinical Associate Professor
of Law & Director, Program on Law & State Government, Indiana
University School of Law-Indianapolis

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