In Indiana, the state constitution provides “[a]ll courts shall be open; and every person, for injury done to him in his person, property, or reputation, shall have remedy by due course of law. Justice shall be administered freely, and without purchase; completely, and without denial; speedily, and without delay.” Ind. Const. Article 1 s 12. However, for various reasons, some parties do not want to air their concerns in open court and would rather do so privately.
Some states like California, Florida, and Nevada allow “private trials.” See Calf. Const. Article VI, s 21; Florida Statutes s 44.104 (providing for a “voluntary trial resolution”); N.R.S. 125.080. Those trials are essentially the same as an open or public trial. However, the parties typically agree to use a retired judge and the trial may be confidential. Private trials can be particularly useful in business disputes over sensitive trademark or trade secrets, or family law matters involving sensitive issues or child custody matters.
While not widely known and arguably under-utilized, Indiana law provides for the use of “private judges,” which is similar to other states use of private trials. See Ind. A.D.R. 6.3(B) (noting that a private judge has the same power as a circuit judge including deciding the outcome of case); see also Koval v. Simon Telelect, Inc., 693 N.E.2d 1299, 1307 (Ind. 1998). While private judges or trials have not become imbedded into Indiana’s justice system like other states, their use could become more widely known and utilized as people and businesses seek to protect their privacy.
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