- Small Claims Courts becoming “courts of record” in 2018.
Beginning July 1, 2018, the Marion County Small Claims Courts will become courts of record. A court of record is a trial court in which a court reporter or clerk takes down a record of proceedings. In the past, the Marion County Small Claims Courts have not been courts of record. Thus, when a party appealed a judgment or requested a jury trial in Small Claims Court, the case was transferred to a circuit or superior court (which are courts of record) and tried de novo (starting new). Once the new change goes into effect, appeals will now be taken to the Indiana Court of Appeals in the same manner as a judgment from a circuit or superior court. Appellate procedure is complex and will cause challenges for many pro se litigants.
- Judges can no longer practice law.
A full-time judge (as defined by the statute) may no longer engage in the practice of law while serving as a judge. It used to be the case that judges in Marion County Small Claims Courts could practice law in addition to serving as a judge. This is no longer the case.
- Small Claims limit increased to $8,000.
Beginning July 1, 2015, the Marion County Small Claims Courts have jurisdiction over civil cases founded on contract, tort, or possessory actions between landlords and tenants in which the dollar amount sought by the plaintiff does not exceed eight thousand dollars ($8,000). This is a considerable step up from the previous $6,000 cap. Furthermore, this dollar amount does not include attorneys’ fees and interest, which can be collected in addition to the $8,000.
- Low caseload courts must help out.
Beginning January 1, 2016, the judge of a low caseload court (as defined by the statute) must report to the presiding judge of the Marion County Small Claims Courts and provide five (5) days each month in which the low caseload court judge can assist the judges of the other Small Claims Courts. This change was made in an effort to provide some relief for the often overcrowded dockets of townships like Center and Lawrence.
- Only applies to Marion County
It is important to note that these changes are only relevant to Marion County. The jurisdictional limit in all other counties is still $6,000, and that cap includes attorneys’ fees and interest, which can substantially limit a party’s claim. Furthermore, in most Indiana counties, the Small Claims (or Magistrate) Court is already a court of record. It is important to consult with knowledgeable, local counsel if you have questions about a specific county’s rules and procedure.
The attorneys of Griffith Law Group LLC routinely represent clients in Marion and the surrounding counties’ Small Claims Courts. Please let us know if we can help you.