County OKs funds for new court positions

Overwhelmed judges ask for more hands

Computers and software are supposed to increase efficiency. But all three Bartholomew County judges and their staff members say the recent introduction of a state-mandated record management system has had the opposite effect.

Court employees filled more than half of the seats of the Bartholomew County Council chambers as judges Kelly Benjamin of Circuit Court, Jim Worton of Superior Court 1, and Kathleen “Kitty” Tighe Coriden of Superior Court 2 talked about problems related to the Odyssey record management system.

In 2016, Indiana’s state courts administration began requiring all Hoosier courts to use Odyssey, which forced 40 percent of the state’s courts to either change their system or use a record management system for the first time, according to a state press release.

Odyssey was installed at the Bartholomew County Courthouse Dec. 5, replacing a judicial tracking system from Computer Systems, Inc., Benjamin said.

The intended benefit was to ensure all Indiana courts have access to each other’s records, as well as to prepare for a new requirement of electronic filing of all pleadings this fall, Benjamin said.

However, a task that once took less than 20 minutes on the previous system now takes more than 45 minutes to perform on Odyssey, Coriden said.

“My staff is already working at maximum capacity, and there are no efficiencies to address this,” Coriden told county council members.

Compared to 91 other Indiana counties, Bartholomew already has the 10th most congested courts in terms of the ratio of judges to caseloads, Benjamin said.

“We’re getting pummeled,” Benjamin said.

Up until now, the Bartholomew County Council has said it wouldn’t hire additional employees until at least late this summer. However, the council unanimously agreed to make an exception to prevent what the judges fear might turn into an exodus of workers.

And unless additional personnel are provided immediately, all three judges said they expected to lose their most experienced staff members that include several who have worked in the courts for more than 20 years.

In response, the council unanimously agreed to spend $65,530 from reserve funds to provide the help the courts requested.

That will allow Worton to promote a part-time employee to full-time status, while Benjamin said she’ll bring on an additional part-time clerical worker.

But most of the money will go to Coriden’s court. The additional full-time worker she brings on will be the first new hire in Bartholomew Superior Court 2 in 18 years, Coriden said.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.