This is going to be bad for business. HB 1158 concerns small claims, civil actions, and sheriff’s fees. Among other things, it requires the Sheriff to collect a $13 service of process fee “from a party requesting service of a writ, an order, a process, a notice, a tax warrant, or any other paper completed by the sheriff.”
I believe this will apply to the situation, among others, where a writ of body attachment is issued by the court in a civil case, commanding the Sheriff to arrest a defendant who failed to appear in court when ordered. Most commonly, this occurs in the context of a proceeding supplemental where the plaintiff is attempting to collect on an unpaid judgment. The judgment defendant is ordered to appear in court to testify as to his income and assets. If the defendant fails to appear, the plaintiff requests that the court issue a writ of attachment. The court issues a writ to the Sheriff who is commanded to arrest the defendant who fails to appear.
A lot of people fail to appear. If plaintiffs stop requesting writs for people who disobey court orders because the plaintiff does not want to pay for them, that could affect the effective administration of justice (not to mention decrease the rate of collections.)
According to the fiscal impact statement, this will take $13.27 million dollars out of the pockets of civil litigants. Primarily this burden will be borne by creditors who have already been hit once by the debtor, hit again by a steep increase in court filing fees in 2005, and now once again by a “sheriff’s fee” if you actually want to see a court order executed. Once upon a time, Indiana had a system where there were separate fees for many different kinds of services involved in the legal process. But, that was an accounting and administrative nightmare. So, the General Assembly, in its infinite wisdom, raised the filing fee and made it one flat fee that covered everything. Now the filing fee hasn’t gone down any. In fact, it went up dramatically last year. But the legislature is bringing back the nickel and dime fees for additional services.
On the upside, sort of, the legislation specifies that the $10 extra defendant fee does not apply to garnishee defendants. However, it goes on to impose a $10 fee for each garnishee defendant beyond the third one. I’m sure the clerks will love going through the file to count prior garnishees.
Update Thanks to the Indiana Law Blog for the link. I thought some information on the movers and shakers behind this bill would be useful.
The House has appointed Representatives Richardson and Lawson as conferees and Representatives Thomas and Kuzman as advisors. Representative Richardson authored the bill. Representatives Richardson, Lawson, and Thomas all voted for the bill. Representative Kuzman did not vote.