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New system on protective orders

March 22, 2019 GMT

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the Allen County Council approved the creation of a new protective order specialist position for Allen Superior Court.

The employee will be the main person who takes care of people who come to the courthouse to file protective orders.

“It will impact the efficiency of the court, but more importantly it will dramatically impact the way that we handle people coming into our court at a very stressful time in their lives: those people who are coming in to seek orders of protection,” Court Administrator John McGauley told the council.

The court issues about 14 or 15 orders of protection a day, McGauley said, which amounts to about 3,500 a year. Small claims court, which hears orders-of-protection cases, has 250,000 new filings every year and is the busiest small claims court in the state, he added.

The new position will earn $36,409 a year.

“In every real way, those people coming into our court are on their own, ... because very few if any of these folks come in with counsel or a legal expert to come and help them,” McGauley said.

“They are perhaps coming in the morning after they had to leave their home in a hurry, without a lot of the information in hand that they need to fill this petition out.”

That affects the court’s ability to hear the request, because many of the petitions contain incomplete or erroneous information, requiring work from staffers to rectify, McGauley said.

Small claims court spends about 32 hours a week hearing orders-of-protection cases, he added.

By adding the new position, the court will “unplug the entire protective order process from just the general staff,” McGauley said, and give it to one person who will assist people in completing the necessary documents to request an order of protection.

With that system, McGauley said, documents will go to the courtroom complete and cases will be heard more quickly, improving efficiency.

“The position we’re asking to create here does not become an advocate,” McGauley said. “It serves as a technical resource to help these folks find information.”

dgong@jg.net