A bill still waiting for an Indiana House committee hearing would add a second circuit court judge in Owen County. Legal insiders say the second court is needed to help alleviate what can be as much as a two-year wait to hear cases in the county.
Owen County has had the same courthouse for 102 years, during which there have been a number of judge, but never more than one at a time.
Now, says county attorney Richard Lorenz, the number of cases before that single court has finally ballooned to such a degree that the county’s judicial process is beginning to lag.
“We’re now looking at setting cases as much as a year-and-a-half, almost two years out for civil jury trials and the like,” Lorenz says. “And that backlog leads to less than adequate judicial protections than you’d like to have.”
State Rep. Bob Heaton (R-Terre Haute), whose district includes most of Owen County, authored the legislation which would create a unified court with two judges serving instead of one.
But the state would have to pick up the tab and Heaton says he knows his bill is one of many asking for a portion of the state’s $2 billion surplus as the next biennial budget is written.
“This should have been addressed many years ago and activated on, but hopefully we can get it through,” Heaton says.
The bill has been assigned to the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code, but has yet to receive a hearing.