INDIANAPOLIS | Filings in Indiana's courts were down for the third straight year in 2011, but judges and court staff in Lake and Porter counties are still overburdened, according to a new report released Monday.
The 2011 Indiana Judicial Service Report found 1.68 million new cases were filed in Indiana's trial courts last year. That's 179,458 fewer cases than 2010 and a 16 percent drop from the 2008 peak of 2 million.
Infractions, typically traffic violations, made up 43 percent of new filings, followed by criminal (17 percent), small claims (15 percent) and civil (13 percent). Ordinance violations, juvenile cases and adoptions made up the remaining 12 percent.
Lake County courts, including the 10 city and town courts, saw 188,199 cases filed last year, of which 48 percent were infractions. Porter County had 37,475 new cases, half of which were infractions.
Statewide, there were 193 new murder cases filed, including 28 in Lake County and two in Porter County. The statewide total is down from 279 cases in 2002, a 31 percent decrease over the decade.
Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, noted that relative to the state's population about 1 in 4 Hoosiers had contact with the courts last year.
"Other than the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, I can't think of any other state agency that touches the lives of so many Indiana citizens," Dickson said. "What's kind of interesting, when you consider that, is that the amount of money the state spends from the state budget on the courts is about 1 percent."
Dickson said he plans to ask the General Assembly next year to boost funding for the courts to help relieve the workload burdens on many judges.
According to the court's weighted caseload measurement system, Porter County courts are operating at 133 percent of workload capacity, while courts in Lake County are at 109 percent.
The average Indiana court is operating at 127 percent of capacity. The report estimates that 122 more judges are needed to meet the workload demand.