October 31, 2011 by Jeffrey Wiese Published in Indiana Court Times
A high profile working group has been formed to review the laws and rules involving one of the most critical records in Indiana’s judicial system—the judgment docket. The judgment docket serves as notice to all interested parties that a judgment exists and is a lien on the real property of the defendant.
The use of judgment dockets can be traced to the time of King Henry VIII (1509 – 1547). In his time, court case records were kept on long rolls of parchment, sometimes called “pipe rolls” or “court rolls” because of their shape. These records were in chronological order with the record of one case ending and the next beginning on the same roll. As you can imagine, it was very difficult to locate the record of a particular case. To avoid “unrolling” these parchments, they began the practice of keeping a separate index roll, called the judgment docket. The docket contained judgment information by case and was arranged alphabetically by the first letter of the debtor’s last name.
Judgment dockets have been used in Indiana since it achieved statehood in 1816. The Revised Statutes of 1831 give these directions regarding the judgment docket:
Chapter XLI, 24
That for the benefit of purchasers and others, the clerk of any court of record shall keep a book in which during every term of such court, or within thirty days thereafter, he shall docket all judgments rendered at such term, for any sum of money, in alphabetical order, by the surname of the party against whom such judgment may have been rendered, and shall enter therein the parties to such judgment, both plaintiffs and defendants, the date of the rendition of such judgment, and the amount of debt, damages and costs thereby recovered; and such docketing shall be matter of record, and open to the inspection of all persons at reasonable times;
Compare this to I.C. 33-32-3-2 and I.C. 33-32-3-3:
(a) The clerk shall keep a circuit court judgment docket.
(b) Upon the filing in the office of the clerk a statement or transcript of any judgment for the recovery of money or costs, the clerk shall enter, and index in alphabetical order, in this judgment docket a statement of the judgment showing the following:
(1) The names of all the parties.
(2) The name of the court.
(3) The number of the cause.
(4) The book and page of the record in which the judgment is recorded.
(5) The date the judgment is entered and indexed.
(6) The date of the rendition of judgment.
(7) The amount of the judgment and the amount of costs.
The circuit court judgment docket is a public record that is open during the usual hours of transacting business for examination by any person.
Look’s familiar, doesn’t it?
These are some of the problems with our current judgment docket system that must be addressed:
- The judgment docket contains not only information about court judgments, it also contains entries for “judgments” created by statute such as:
- failure of railroad company to repair or improve that portion of the street occupied by its track (see I.C. 8-6-12-2);
- removal of signs that are public nuisance (see I.C. 8-23-20-26);
- tax warrants (see I.C. 6-8.1-8-2); and
- liens for unsafe building repairs (see I.C. 36-7-9-13).
- The judgment docket is a tool meant to be usable by the public to locate judgments; however, the public has no way of knowing where a particular judgment is recorded. A recent survey of the Indiana Code found statutory authority for at least 198 judgment dockets. There is no cross referencing of these judgment dockets.
- There is no consistency from county to county or even court to court within the same county about how judgment dockets are kept. Some counties still keep actual judgment docket books; some keep this record electronically; some record unpaid court costs and fines, and some do not.
- Party Identification issues exist. There may be many James Smiths in a county. How can we ensure the judgment docket properly identifies the specific James Smith related to the judgment?
- Confidentiality issues exist. Some juvenile cases contain orders for restitution. According to statute, restitution orders should be recorded in the judgment docket; however, juvenile cases are confidential. How should this be handled?
Recognizing the need to clarify the laws and rules governing the judgment docket, the Indiana Supreme Court’s Records Management Committee formed a task force to study the existing laws and practices and make recommendations for improvement. The task force is comprised of stakeholders from every entity with an interest in the judgment docket.
The Indiana Supreme Court appointed Justice Steven David to chair of the task force, which consists of the following members:
Director, Juvenile & Family Law, Indiana Judicial Center
Penny S. Bogan
Martha J. Breeze
John R. Carr, III
Kenneth J. Falk
Wendy S. Gibbons
James C. Hall, Jr.
R. William Jonas, Jr.
Lilia G. Judson
Hon. John Kellam
Larry A. Landis
|Patricia L. Marshall
United States Bankruptcy Courts
Rep. Jud McMillin
Hon. Steven R. Nation
Hon. John R. Pera
Hon. Brian G. Poindexter
Hon. John A. Rader
Mary A. Slade
Tammy R. White
Hon. Gregory F. Zoeller