State panel supports new court for Kosciusko County

A state legislative committee has recommended a new court for Kosciusko County.

The Interim Study Committee on the Courts and the Judiciary unanimously approved Thursday to recommend a new court.

The lack of a study committee recommendation is what halted lawmakers from adding a new court in the county last session.

Kosciusko Circuit Court Judge Michael Reed made the presentation in front of the committee Thursday.

Reed said he sees the other judges working late at night on weekends or through their lunch. He said they spend so much time in the courtroom, they are unable to do legal research or community service.

Kosciusko County has four courts and four judges, one circuit and three superior courts.

According to statistics by the state, Kosciusko’s case load is the work of 5.2 judges.

Reed talked about the increase of people filing civil cases with lawyers.

People forgo lawyers in divorces due to the expense of hiring one, he said. He said this makes cases more time-consuming for the judge since he takes longer to work with the person.

Previously, three other counties, Jefferson, Scott and  Putnam, also were approved for new courts. Representatives from those counties talked about overcrowded jails and increases in children needing services.

Reed told the committee that Kosciusko County has the same problems as the other counties.

Judes Joe Sutton and David Cates, Kosciusko County Prosecutor Dan Hampton and defense attorney and President of the  Kosciusko County Bar Association Dana Leon attended the hearing to show their support for the new court.

Kosciusko remains near the top of counties with the highest need. The county last added a new court in 1997.

Sen. Randy Head sponsored a bill last session to add a Kosciusko Superior Court IV, but the bill was denied a hearing because it had not been approved by the study committee.

Now that the committee has put its stamp of approval on the court, the action will proceed to a bill in the next legislative section. In addition to the bill needing to be approved, the assembly would also have to approve money for a new court. If approved, the new court could be ready by the summer.

The state would pay the judge’s salary. All other expenses for the new court would be paid for by the county.

Reed presented documents to the committee showing approval from the Kosciusko County Commissioners and Kosciusko County Council.

One thing the county would not need is a new courtroom. When the county remolded the Kosciusko County justice building a few years ago, they added a spare courtroom.