STATEHOUSE—Rep. Rich McClain’s (R-Logansport) legislation dealing with misdemeanor hearings passed out of the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code with a 9-2 vote.
House Bill (HB) 1152 provides that misdemeanors be heard in a city or town court in which a judge who is an attorney in good standing with the Indiana Supreme Court presides. Current law requires local judges to participate in continuing education courses, but does not stipulate any educational requirement prior to election or appointment.
This legislation follows a case where a non-attorney judge in Alexandria, Ind. sentenced a Class C misdemeanant to 160 days of jail time, which caused uproar amongst community members who felt it was excessive punishment.
“Since misdemeanors are punishable with jail time, I think it is our responsibility to require that judges handing down these sentences be attorneys,” said Rep. McClain. “While non-attorney judges are often very capable, it would enhance the public’s confidence to know that these types of crimes are being heard by someone who is formally trained in the law.
“It also brings a greater sense of professionalism to our city and town courts, which is vital to our judicial system. Several community members reached out to me concerning this issue, so I’m glad the legislation is moving along.”
If enacted, misdemeanors occurring in a city or town that does not require a judge be an attorney would have to be filed in another court that requires the judge be an attorney within the same county.
HB 1152 is now able to be discussed by the full House.