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How Does the Indiana Small Claims Court Work?
Indiana Small Claims Courts are courts that handle civil matters between individuals that do not involve a large amount of money. Typically, Circuit Courts and Superior Courts have jurisdiction over these cases in the state. However, Marion County has different Small Claims Courts specifically created for these matters. Marion is the only county in the state with this distinction.
The Marion County Small Claims Courts are non-jury trial courts with limited jurisdiction over civil cases where the amount in dispute is less than $8,000. These courts share original and concurrent jurisdiction with the county’s Circuit and Superior Courts over these cases. Civil cases where the Small Claims Court has jurisdiction include:
- Civil cases founded on tort or contract where the total amount of debt or damages claimed is not more than $8,000, excluding interest or attorney’s fees.
- Cases involving possessory actions between landlords and tenants where the total amount of rent past due as at the time of filing the case is not more than $8,000
- Matters involving actions for possession of property where the total value of the property sought to be recovered is not more than $8,000
Note that in the course of exercising its duties, the Marion County Small Claims Courts statutorily does not have jurisdiction over the following types of matters:
- Actions seeking injunctive relief
- Matters involving the partition of real estate
- Actions in which a party asks for the appointment of a receiver
- Matters involving suits for the dissolution or annulment of a marriage
In Marion County, the Small Claims Court consists of nine divisions. Each division has a judge that has jurisdiction over the township where it is located. Individuals that wish to be elected as Marion County Small Claims Court judges must be a citizen of the United States that has been licensed to practice law in the state of Indiana. Equally, such a person must be a resident of the court’s township for at least a year.
Elections are partisan elections, conducted within the township where the court is located. Once elected, a Marion County Small Claims Court judge serves a term of four years. Note that, even though an elected judge may serve for successive terms, Indiana judges are statutorily required to retire from office at 75. This is regardless of whether the judge’s current term has expired or not.
Marion County Small Claims Courts have the same powers of Indiana Circuit Courts in relation to compelling the attendance of witnesses, punishing individuals found in contempt of court, and enforcing issued court orders. Also, Marion County Small Claims Court judges have the authority to solemnize marriages.
Parties that wish to file a lawsuit with the Marion County Small Claims Court must do so at the township where:
- The incident or transaction in question occurred.
- The obligation happened or was performed.
- The defendant named in the lawsuit lives or works as at the time of the filing
- The property in question is located (for cases involving disputes between landlords and tenants)
The length of a trial and the time it takes for a judgment to be issued in a Marion County Small Claims Court varies. In some cases, the judgment may be issued immediately after the trial. However, sometimes the judge may decide to take the matter under advisement before issuing a decision. When this is done, parties unhappy or unsatisfied with the decision issued can appeal to the Court of Appeals not more than 30 days after.
Records of Marion County Small Claims Courts cases can be accessed online via the case search website. The search engine allows interested parties to search for cases by inputting the names of the litigants involved in the case, the names of the attorneys involved, or the case number.
Alternatively, members of the public interested in obtaining copies of Marion County Small Claims Courts’ records may contact the Court Clerk’s office in the township where the Small Claims Court is located. Note, copying available court record attracts a nominal fee depending on the volume of the request.
Listed below are the locations of the Marion County Small Claims Courts:
Center Township Small Claims Court
Julia M. Carson Government Center
300 E Fall Creek Pkwy N Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46205
Phone: (317) 920–4530
Decatur Township Small Claims Court
3730 S Foltz St
Indianapolis, IN 46241
Phone: (317) 241–2854
Franklin Township Small Claims Court
4351 Independence Square
Indianapolis, IN 46203
Phone: (317) 784–1751
Lawrence Township Small Claims Court
4455 McCoy Street
Indianapolis, IN 46226
Phone: (317) 545–2369
Perry Township Small Claims Court
4925 Shelby Street
Indianapolis, IN 46227
Phone: (317) 786–9242
Pike Township Small Claims Court
5665 Lafayette Road
Indianapolis, IN 46254
Phone: (317) 293–1842
Warren Township Small Claims Court
501 N Post Road
Indianapolis, IN 46219
Phone: (317) 327–8919
Washington Township Small Claims Court
5302 N Keystone Avenue
Indianapolis, IN 46220