A national report released this week recommends Marion County do away with its small claims courts and adopt a more unified model.
Marion County is the only one in the state that has a township-based small claims system. Indiana’s remaining 91 counties hear small claims cases in a division of the superior or circuit court.
Over the past two years, several people have raised concerns about the way Marion County’s township-based courts operate, such as some townships focusing on generating revenue instead of serving justice.
A National Center for State Courts study found what Marion County Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosneberg describes as several ‘systemic problems.’
While the report recommends moving the township cases into a small claims division of the Marion County Superior Court, Rosenberg’s not sure the reform will be that drastic.
“The legislature has not been particularly hospitable to anything that takes away from township authority,” Rosenberg said. “So, I hope the past is not prologue.”
Rosenberg says he wants to see the mismatched resources between the different townships addressed. For example, Center Township has the largest population, but Rosenberg says the judge there only works part time. But, the much smaller Franklin Township has a full-time judge.
“We need to change the system,” Rosenberg said. “There’s systemic problems and we need to own up to that.”
Seven of the nine township judges endorsed a ‘Joint Plan for Reform,’ which is also focuses on a more centralized filing system. But, it keeps the nine small claims courts intact.