Indiana Trial Rule 77 provides guidelines about the records and information that an Indiana trial court must create and maintain. That rule calls for four types of records: (1) indexes, which list in a searchable format the name and the case number of a proceeding; (2) a chronological case summary (CCS), which is a sequential summary describing the events in a proceeding; (3) the case file, which contains all the original pleadings, motions, orders, judgments and all other papers relating to a case; and (4) a record of judgment and designated orders (RJO).
The principle underlying these four records, coupled with the retention schedules under Administrative Rule 7, is that the voluminous case file would be destroyed at some point in the future, pursuant to the record retention schedule, while court judgments and important orders will be maintained permanently in the RJO. Reference to the dates and entries on the CCS enables searches to locate the judgments and important orders. The advent of digital technology is making the creation and retention of this court information much easier, but it does not obviate the need for the permanent retention of important court information.
The CCS is a key, official record. It provides in one place an accurate summary of what has transpired in a case, without the need to search files for pleadings and orders. Thus, the accuracy and timeliness of CCS event entries is of critical importance to an accurate court record. This means that the date of every notation on the CCS should be the date that the notation is made, regardless of the date the motion is filed or an order is signed. It also means that the CCS entry is not a substitute for a court order; the CCS is a brief description of the motion, order or other event that happened.
In most modern automated case management systems (CMS), such as the state Odyssey CMS, the user is guided to a drop-down list from which he must select the CCS description that best reflects the event. CCS entries, once made, should not be amended. In order to amend a CCS event, the user must make another entry explaining the change and when it was made. Furthermore, the date an action is entered on the CCS is the date from which all time limits run (except in a few criminal case instances). As more and more courts post their CCS records on the Internet, compliance with these rules is critical in order to assure the integrity of the court record.
But who is responsible for the timeliness and accuracy of CCS entries? Trial Rule 77 (A) charges the clerk of the circuit court with the responsibility of maintaining court records, and Administrative Rule 10 provides that a the clerk is responsible for maintaining court records in a manner consistent with the directives of the Supreme Court, the judge of the court, and other pertinent authority. Administrative Rule 10 also provides that each judge is administratively responsible for the integrity of the records of the court.
Trial Rule 77(B) provides that notations in the CCS shall be made promptly. However, because local practices vary significantly from county-to-county and even court-to-court within the same county, the language in Trial Rule 77(B) does not specifically state who is to make the CCS entries “promptly.”
In an amendment that became effective on January 1, 2013, the Supreme Court added language to Trial Rule 77(B) that states that “the judge of the case shall cause CCS entries to be made of all judicial events.” This amendment is not intended to change the existing duties of the court and clerk staffs. The new language is intended to clarify that the court has the ultimate authority and responsibility to make sure that someone—court or clerk staff—makes the CCS entries promptly and accurately. This means that a special judge, judge pro tem, senior judge or any other “visiting judge” must make sure that CCS entries are made reflecting the judge’s work.
Different working relationships between clerk and court staffs, funding differences, and local custom and practice often determine who performs the CCS function. However, regardless of who performs this function, it is clear that the trial court judge must assure that CCS entries are accurate and timely.
A local rule with clear statements of the courts’ policies and deadlines can help assure the accurate and prompt entry of CCS event. For example, such a local rule should:
- state what office (clerk or court) and what positions (not the particular names) are responsible for the CCS entries;
- establish a “paper flow” process if the making of CCS entries involves the passing of orders, motions and other paper from one office to another;
- require lawyers to submit proposed entries or designate the particular event from the CMS drop down menus;
- set a specific time from the date of the filing of an order and other papers, within which the persons making the CCS entry must complete the task in the system;
- provide instructions about what and when special judges, judges pro tempore, senior judges and other “visiting judges” have to do to get their events entered on the CCS.
The Senior Judge Committee strongly recommends that courts provide senior judges “instructions” about specific guidelines and expectations. For instance, the courts could prepare a special instruction sheet for “visiting judges” telling them to whom, how and when they must send or email the CCS entries.
If the clerk’s staff will be responsible for CCS entries, the courts should engage the clerk and his/her staff in figuring out a reasonable but also timely period within which CCS entries must be made. Input from the local bar, particularly if the court will require lawyers to propose CCS entries, would also be helpful. Having all the parties at the table should go a long way to achieve buy-in from all.
Some trial judges have asked for assistance from the Division in developing “best practices” and local rules that would help produce timely and accurate CCS entries. The Division staff is available to assist in such endeavors.