Indiana Judicial System and Court System: How Does it Work?
The Judicial System of Indiana provides for the court system of the state as well as the four federal courts. The prerogative of the Indiana Judiciary is to ensure that law is preserved, along with the civil rights and liberties of the people within the State. Owing to the need to ensure that people have the right to appeal, the judicial system is an appellate one. What this means is that there are Courts with exclusive jurisdiction to oversee certain cases and appeals can be made to higher courts only under certain situations. The Circuit and Superior Courts hear most cases.
What are the different kinds of Courts within the Indiana Judicial System?
Every county within the state of Indiana has a Circuit Court, and many of them have Superior Courts as well. The only province with a small claims court in Marion County while the only county to have a specialized probate court along with jurisdiction over cases involving juveniles is St. Joseph County. The Trial Courts in Indiana consist of the Circuit Court, the Superior Court, and City/Town Courts. These courts have a general jurisdiction to oversee civil and criminal cases but cannot oversee those cases deemed the exclusive jurisdiction of the Supreme Court.
- Supreme Court: The highest judicial body within the State, the Supreme Court is governed by Article VII of the Constitution. Most cases are overheard by the Trial courts, with roughly one percent of those cases making their way up to the Supreme Court. When an appeal is brought before the Supreme Court, the trial proceeds differently than at the Trial Courts. The reason behind this is that a case needs to be of vital importance for the appeal to reach the Supreme Court. The facts of the case are not set again, but what is looked at is the question of the law and whether the previous verdict was accurate. The Supreme Court has the exclusive power to hear cases where a lower court has given the verdict of a death penalty and overturn that decision if they want to.
Usually, the attorneys present written briefs to the Supreme Court instead of their being court trials. However, the Supreme Court may also make room for an oral discussion where the attorneys can be asked questions and asked questions about their submitted briefs.
- Indiana Court of Appeals: An intermediary court of appeals within the State, cases from trial courts are usually appealed first at the Indiana Court of Appeals. The Court also handles requests from some of the agencies within the State, such as the Department of Workforce Development or the Worker's Compensation Board among others.
- Circuit Courts: Indiana consists of 92 counties, and 90 of these have their own Circuit Courts. The remaining two counties were combined to form one judicial county. Circuit Courts have the jurisdiction to hear all cases except those that can exclusively be heard by a higher court of law as deemed by the Constitution. Should a county not have a Superior Court, then matters regarding small claims are decided upon by Circuit Courts within that county. Also included in this are civil cases valued at below $6000, minor offenses and Class D felonies. It also has appellate jurisdiction of cases from City/Town Courts.
- Superior Courts: As more and more cases needed to be heard, Superior courts were created to fill the vacuum. Most counties have both Superior and Circuit Courts. Superior Courts have general jurisdiction to hear all civil and criminal cases, but primarily handle small claims and minor misdemeanors.
- City/Town Courts: These courts are created by ordinance, and there are at present forty-seven city courts and twenty-eight town courts in Indiana. These courts handle matters of minor infractions and misdemeanors. This court also oversees traffic violations. As City/Town courts are not courts of record, when an appeal is made to a higher court, the trial is treated as a completely new trial.