Monday, May 7, 2007

Madison County news: Indigent cases and forms

With absolutely no fanfare or information given to the local attorneys, the judges of the Madison County Unified Courts have set up a process for dealing with indigent (pauper) custody cases. Actually, a bit more than just custody cases. You can also apply for a court appointed attorney for your civil case (that is anything that is not a criminal case).

You go up to the Court Administrator's Office on the fourth floor of the Madison County Government Center, and tell them that you are indigent. If it is a custody case, you get a form petition and an affidavit to prove you are indigent. Now the online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines indigent as being impoverished. That could mean most of Madison County, Indiana but it certainly means being something more than just between paychecks.

Now Indiana has long had a statute allowing for appointing an attorney for poor people in a civil case. I think Madison County has actually done something innovative here by creating a process for implementing the statute. We will see how much dedication they put in carrying out the statute to its fullest.

This statute may still impinge on those who are not indigent. At least Judge Brinkman requires the indigent affidavit if you are seeking to waive the filing fee in a case. A client of mine lacked the $132.00 for court costs and I filed a request that the court costs not be paid up front. Judge Brinkman declined to do so until the indigency affidavit was signed and filed. The moral of this story is: do not file in Madison County unless you have the filing fee in full or are truly indigent.