Superior-ity Complex? Indiana’s Trial Courts

February 09, 2016

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

A trip to your local county court house may leave you wondering about the difference between circuit versus superior courts. The answer is imbedded in both our statutory code and in our constitution. Article 7, Section 1 of the Indiana Constitution outlines the four types of courts in Indiana, specifically stating, “[t]he judicial power of the State shall be vested in one Supreme Court, one Court of Appeals, Circuit Courts, and such other courts as the General Assembly may establish.” That Article also defines each court’s jurisdiction, meaning the type of cases that the courts are allowed to hear. While the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals are, with a few exceptions, courts with no original jurisdiction, meaning they do not hear new cases, circuit courts “shall have such civil and criminal jurisdiction as may be prescribed by law.” See Ind. Const. Art. 7, Sect. 8. (Interested in the Indiana Constitution? Find it here

Accordingly, the Indiana Constitution grants the General Assembly the power to create other courts and define the jurisdictions of the circuit courts and any courts that it creates. With those powers, the General Assembly has created superior courts and crafted Indiana Code 33-28 et. seq. and 33-29 et. seq.; generally defining the powers and roles of circuit and superior courts. A review of those two articles will reveal how the two courts are more similar than they are different. Specifically, both circuit and superior courts have original jurisdiction in all civil and criminal matters. However, the General Assembly’s powers allow it to further legislate how many, what kind, the structure, and the authority of the courts in each individual county, so long as there is a constitutionally required circuit court. The chart below demonstrates how different counties may be:

  • Bartholomew County – 9th Circuit – Indiana Code 33-33-3 et seq.
    • 1 Circuit Court with 1 Judge
    • 2 Superior Courts with 1 Judge each
    • Superior Court 2 may appoint 1 full-time Magistrate
  • Delaware County – 46th Circuit – Indiana Code 33-33-18 et seq.
    • 1 Circuit Court with 5 Judges
    • No Superior Courts
    • Circuit Courts 4 and 5 shall each have a small claims and misdemeanor docket
  • Madison County – 50th Circuit – Indiana Code 33-33-48 et seq.
    • 1 Circuit court with 6 Judges
    • No Superior Courts
    • Judges are assigned by rule to the 6 different types of dockets of the Court
  • Marion County – 19th Circuit – Indiana Code 33-33-49 et seq.
    • 1 Circuit Court with 1 Judge
    • 1 Superior Court with 36 Judges
    • The court shall be divided into divisions (civil, criminal, probate, and juvenile) with judges assigned to the divisions

Looking for an attorney that knows the difference? Contact the attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP today if you have questions or believe your constitutional or criminal rights have been violated. We stand ready to provide our clients with trusted representation and accurate information regarding the law and its application to their individualized case. Act now and contact us today at (317) 857-0160.