New Beats for Reporters in New Courts


Key_Steve_webThe Indiana Supreme Court has established six pilot Commercial Courts to deal with certain business disputes.

The business writers and court beat reporters will have to determine who’s going to cover these special courts, which have been created in Allen, Elkhart, Floyd, Lake, Marion and Vanderburgh counties.

According to the Supreme Court, the purpose of commercial courts is to
1. improve court efficiency;
2. allow business/commercial disputes to be resolved with expertise, technology, and efficiency;
3. enhance the accuracy, consistency, and predictability of decisions in business/commercial cases;
4. enhance economic development in Indiana by furthering the efficient resolution of business/commercial law disputes; and
5. encourage technologies, such as e-filing, e-discovery, telephone/video conferencing, and employ early alternative dispute resolution interventions.

The types of cases that will be referred to the Commercial Courts will include disputes over the formation, goverance and liquidation of a business; rights of owners, shareholders, partners, etc.; trade secret and employment agreements; contract disputes between two businesses.

Cases not eligible for the new courts will include personal injury or wrongful death; consumer claims; wage, health and safety, worker’s compensation or unemployment compensation; environmental; discrimination; or consumer debts.

The creation of these pilot courts is another example of a very active Supreme Court, which has kept HSPA busy this summer. Other court subjects that have drawn our attention are:

Advisory Task Force on Electronic Access
Chaired by Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush, this group is making recommendations as to what judicial records should be made available publicly on the Internet. Thus far, the majority of final resolutions to criminal cases at the trial court level will be posted. Decisions on additional records probably won’t be reached until a similar group convenes in 2017.

Emergency detention and commitment cases
Records Management Committee chaired by Justice Mark Massa recommended that Supreme Court designate all detention and commitment cases confidential. HSPA contacted Indiana Broadcasters Association to jointly send the  Supreme Court a letter asking it to reject the recommendation.

Status of search and arrest warrants
Court issued warrants are presumed to be open for public inspection. Prosecutors can ask that they be sealed until served. Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council is pushing in the Records Management Committee to make the presumption that warrants are confidential until served.

Reporter’s use of electronic devices in courtroom
Community Relations Committee made a recommendation for best practice guidelines (that would allow reporters to use electronic devices to upload stories/tweets, etc. from trial courtroom, but not audio/video) to the Judicial Conference Board of Directors. Board voted to table the proposal – worried about bloggers definition – and asked committee to continue working on issue. HSPA will continue to work on this effort.

Victim identification as interpreted by Administrative Rule 9
Question has been raised as to whether Administrative Rule 9 requires courts to delete victim identifying information. HSPA waiting to hear back from Division of Court Administration.

Status of Plea Agreements prior to judge’s acceptance – secret or not
Some judges took position that plea agreements were confidential records unless judge approved the agreement. Records Management Committee determined that the plea agreements should not be filed on green paper, which is required of confidential records. HSPA alerted editors to determine whether judges were keeping proposed plea agreements secret.


Steve Key is executive director and general counsel for the Hoosier State Press Association.