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November 4, 2012

Vigo County mortgage filings fall below pre-housing crisis level

TERRE HAUTE — Mortgage foreclosure filings in Vigo County continued to drop during the past year, dipping below the pre-housing crisis level of 10 years ago, according to an annual court statistics report released this week.

The total number of criminal and civil cases filed in Vigo County rose slightly during 2011, and the number of criminal and civil cases disposed by the courts – 32,942 – was an improvement over the 2010 statistic of 31,885 cases resolved.

 The annual report from the Indiana Supreme Court’s Division of State Court Administration also presented 2011 statistics for Vigo County that showed a slight decline in the number of divorces and legal separations.

While the state’s foreclosure crisis reached a high of 45,394 cases filed in 2008, the crisis struck Vigo County about two years earlier, as evidenced by the record 612 mortgage foreclosure filings that hit the county court system in 2006.

An interesting 2011 statistic pointed out by Judge David Bolk of Vigo Superior Court 3 was that the number of Children in Need of Services cases (indicated as JC in the accompanying statistics) rose by 72 cases, after taking a dramatic dip in the year prior. Those cases stem from action taken by the Department of Child Services to intervene on behalf of children at risk of neglect or injury.

Taking a quick review of the statistics on Thursday, Judge Bolk said no statistical area jumped out at him as a surprise. The number of new cases filed each year tends to vary, he said, noting that the number of criminal cases filed during the past three years seems to remain steady.

Overall, Vigo County had 33,011 criminal and civil cases filed in 2011 through its court system, which includes a circuit, six superior, a juvenile and a city court. That number of filings is about 5,800 less than in 2008, when a high of 38,808 cases were filed with the courts.

Bolk noted that one area where he pushed the county court system this year has been in the resolution of guardianship and estate cases.

During the first three quarters of 2012, more than 953 guardianship cases have been closed. Many of those cases were several years old, Bolk said, and the court system had not done a good job in keeping track of them.

The parties involved in guardianship cases are required by state law to submit an update to the court every two years concerning the condition of the protected ward, whether it is a juvenile or an endangered adult, and to state how any funds are being spent in the care of the ward.

A review by probate clerk June Jackson revealed that many juveniles in guardianships had reached adulthood and were no longer under the oversight of a guardian. And, some of the protected adults had died, ending the guardianship.

Also during the first nine months of 2012, 86 new guardianship cases were opened in the county court system.

In estate cases, which are supposed to be resolved within 18 months, the court system reviewed and closed 281 cases. However, another 221 new cases were opened. At the end of September, the courts had 717 active estates in probate court, which are handled by the Division 1, 2 and 3 superior courts.

Overall, the Vigo County court system has a busy caseload. The state statistics showed that Superior Court 5, which handles drunken driving-related offenses, had the most new cases filed in 2011 -- 390 class-D felonies and 706 criminal misdemeanors.

The full report is available online at the Indiana Supreme Court’s Division of Court Administration website at www.in.gov/judiciary/admin.

Reporter Lisa Trigg can be reached at (812) 231-4254 or lisa.trigg@tribstar.com.

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