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Indiana Supreme Court deciding fewer cases

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Monday, November 11, 2013 - 1:05 pm

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Supreme Court has continued a trend of deciding fewer cases from among the declining number of appeals being made to the high court.

The court's annual report released this month shows it issued 78 rulings on the 868 cases that were appealed to the five justices during the one-year period ending June 30. That's down from 90 opinions issued the previous year and 122 a decade ago.

The court also is picking from among fewer cases being appealed — 963 requests during the 2011-12 term and 979 appeals 10 years earlier, The Times of Munster reported.

Chief Justice Brent Dickson said he can't explain why the number of appeals reaching the court has gone down.

"I don't know that there's any particular reason other than to say more people are satisfied with their trial court decisions," Dickson said.

At least three of the five justices must agree to hear an appeal for the state's Supreme Court to take up the case.

Dickson, who joined the bench in 1986 and became chief justice in 2012, said the court is most likely to consider a case if a state appeals court ruling makes a law interpretation rather than if the appeals court was deciding whether a county court made a mistake.

"If ... the Court of Appeals reaches a decision in which they make a call, the Supreme Court may well say, 'They may or may not have gotten that right, but we don't want to take resources away from our other responsibilities and address that,'" he said.

The Supreme Court's annual report tallied 1.6 million new cases filed during the year period in all courts across the state.

The Indiana Constitution guarantees litigants the right to one appeal. Except in death penalty and certain tax cases, those appeals are first heard by the 15-member Indiana Court of Appeals, which issues rulings by three-judge panels.

Last year, civil cases were more likely to obtain a final decision by the high court. Of the 297 appeals in civil cases, the Supreme Court issued rulings in 39 instances, or 13 percent. The court ruled in 34 of 529 appeals made in criminal cases, or 6 percent.