The Indiana General Assembly organized the County of St. Joseph on January 29, 1830. The St. Joseph Circuit has been in continuous operation since 1830. Circuit courts are mandated by the 1851 Indiana Constitution.
The Circuit Court is a court of general jurisdiction consisting of one Judge elected to a six-year term and three magistrate judges appointed by the Judge. The Court has the authority to hear civil and criminal cases.
The types of cases heard by Circuit Court are established by local rule based upon the annual weighted caseload requirements established by the Indiana Supreme Court. As a result, the types of cases assigned to Circuit Court are almost exclusively civil disputes, ranging from contract, personal injury, collection, divorce, child support, protective orders, injunctions, estates, and administrative appeals. By local rule, the criminal jurisdiction of the Circuit Court is limited to criminal nonsupport and welfare fraud. The Circuit Court also conducts all Grand Jury proceedings and as of 2013, oversees civil protective order court.
The Circuit Court Judge has oversight responsibility for the Public Defenders' Office, Community Corrections, the Domestic Relations Counseling Bureau, and the Adult Probation Department, which contains the Court Substance Abuse Program. As a result, the Circuit Court Judge has administrative supervision over a combined staff of approximately 120 personnel with budgets totaling more than $5 million. The Judge of the Circuit Court also has statutory powers regarding civil unrest, re-appraisement and regulation of estates, and appeals from city and town courts.
Circuit Court Bench
The current Court consists of an elected judge and three appointed magistrate judges:
- Judge John E. Broden
- Magistrate Andre B. Gammage
- Magistrate William L. Wilson
- Magistrate Julie P. Verheye