The Indiana Supreme Court chief justice says more judges need to be hired to relieve current judges of some of their caseloads.
The number of cases filed in Indiana courts last year hit its lowest level in seven years, according to data released Monday, but Hoosier judges are still handling heavy workloads.
Judicial officials set a baseline amount of time they expect each case to take, based on its severity. Murder cases take longer than theft cases, for instance. Using those numbers, the state establishes a baseline amount of work it expects each judge to do.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson says many judges do more than that amount of work, meaning more need to be hired to take some of the pressure off, but Dickson says more judges is not the only solution.
“Other counties try to reconfigure the way they work, share work among themselves and every county has the ability to come up with a system that works best for them. And many of them will do that,” he says.
More than 1.6 million new cases were filed in Indiana trial courts in 2011, the second lowest number in ten years. Since hitting a high point in 2008, the number of new cases has dropped every year.
Dickson says there are a variety of factors contributing to the drop, including statewide diversion initiatives.
“Strenuous efforts in alternative dispute resolution and mediation are, we think, reaping effects where people are taking responsibilities for settling their own disputes and maintaining control of their lives a little bit better than happens when a matter goes into litigation,” he says.
Dickson says he will also ask the legislature for more funding to use technology to help reduce caseloads and save taxpayer money.