Indiana courts still busy despite decline in cases filed
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Indiana courts still busy despite decline in cases filed

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INDIANAPOLIS | Indiana court filings declined for a second straight year in 2010, but even with nearly 100,000 fewer cases Hoosier judges still are overworked, according to statistics released last week.

Last year, 1,859,870 cases were filed in Indiana's trial courts. That's down from 1,956,749 cases in 2009 and the recent peak of 2,001,731 cases in 2008.

The caseload in Lake County declined slightly with 202,448 cases filed last year after 208,980 in 2009. The number of cases filed in Porter County also fell slightly to 41,002 last year versus 45,544 in 2009.

In Lake County, most of the decline was due to 3,345 fewer infraction cases, typically traffic violations. But cases involving abused or neglected children increased to 1,200 last year from 989 the year before, and murder cases rose to 54 last year compared to 42 in 2009.

Porter County had 4,400 fewer infractions in 2010 and also saw cases involving abused or neglected children drop to 69 cases from 96 in 2009.

One way the state court system uses this data is to calculate how much work judges in a county do based on a weighted caseload assessment.

According to this measure, the nine Porter County judges together do the work of 12.95 judges, or 144 percent of what the judges are expected to do.

Each Lake County judge does the work of 1.23 judges.

Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard said he's concerned judges may get "burned out" by the extra work. He expects a recent reorganization of court districts will help balance the workload by assigning judges from less busy counties to assist overburdened judges.

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