Thursday, November 19, 2009

What Do You Know About Indiana Courts? Part Two - Trial Judges & Commissioners

If you have read What Do You Know About Indiana Courts?, you have probably realized that
Indiana has no courts dealing specifically with family law cases.

For the most part, our trial judges have their time taken first by criminal cases and then by civil suits and then family law cases.  What expertise exists for family law cases will be found more in the unelected commissioners.

Recently Madison County offered a good example of what we have for judges.  Our long standing Circuit Judge resigned and the Governor appointed a new judge.  The Anderson Herald-Bulletin described the appointee's resume as:

ANDERSON­ — A man whose legal experience ranges from enforcing the law as a state trooper to trying criminal suspects as a deputy prosecutor has been named Madison County Circuit Court judge

Pyle said his experience gives him the ability to view cases from the perspective of law-enforcement officers and with an understanding of legal theory. “It gives me a really well-rounded background to be an effective judge.”

Notice the emphasis on criminal matters?  This is how the press presents courts to the public.  However, Judge Pyle played to the same choir when he was sworn in according to the Herald Bulletin's New Judge Pyle vows ‘respect, reliability, results’:
He noted a recent federal stimulus grant of nearly $1 million that will help the courts consolidate and expand problem-solving courts. Drug court, mental-health court and re-entry court are meant to provide alternatives to nonviolent offenders who may benefit more from treatment and social-service intervention than from incarceration.
Recently, someone commented to an older post of mine, What to do if refused visitation? that lead me to think a bit more about judges.  The comment noted how hard it was to get visitation enforced as opposed to child support.  Why should that be?  Remember that our Circuit and Superior Court judges are elected.  For those complaining about our judges should ask themselves - what attracts you to a judicial candidate when you go vote?   If you look upon a trial judge's judge as being about helping the prosecutor prosecute criminals, I suggest that you need to rethink your complaints about Indiana's judiciary.  So long as the public demands judges talk like prosecutors, we will have judges whose interest in family matters is secondary at best.  Judges will talk the talk necessary to get themselves re-elected.

(Added after the first draft.  I noticed Family Law Prof blog published MacDowell: "When Courts Collide: Integrated Domestic Violence Courts and Court Pluralism" that seems - once one gets past the academic prose to actually touch on this issue but from a different direction.)

No comments: