Indiana's Eighty-Sixth (86th) Judicial Circuit, consisting of Jennings County, was created by statute in 1935, after sharing a Circuit with Scott County (I.C.33-33-40-1). The Jennings Circuit Court was established by Article 7, Section 7 of the Constitution of the State of Indiana of 1851 which prescribes a six(6) year term of office without limitations, and requires the Judge to be a resident of Jennings County and admitted to the practice of law in the State of Indiana. The Jennings Circuit Court has original jurisdiction to preside over all civil and criminal cases. (I.C.33-28-1-2) The Jennings Circuit Court has exclusive jurisdiction in Jennings County over all probate/estate, trust and juvenile cases. The Jennings Circuit Court is located on the second floor of the Jennings County Courthouse, 24 North Pike Street, P. O. Box 386, Vernon, Indiana 47282 The Court's offices and Judge's Chamber are located on the second floor of the Jennings County Courthouse. The Honorable Jon W. Webster is the former Judge of Jennings Circuit Court. He was elected in 1996 and his term of office began on January 1, 1997. He was reelected for a fourth term in 2014. Judge Webster graduated from the University of Louisville in 1979 and from the University of Louisville School of Law in 1982. He was admitted to the practice of law by the Indiana Supreme Court on October 15, 1982. Judge Webster is a member of the Indiana Judges Association and currently a member of the Criminal Jury Instructions Committee, Character and Fitness Committee, and Probate Committee. Judge Webster retired in 2020 and was replaced by the Honorable Murielle S. Bright. Murielle (Ellie) Bright was elected in 2020 and took office January 1, 2021. She attended Jennings County High School, Butler University graduating in 2007 and Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law graduating in 2010. She was admitted to the practice of law by the Indiana Supreme Court on October 15, 2010. Prior to being elected and taking office as Circuit Court Judge, Judge Bright owned and operated her private law practice in North Vernon, IN for the past 10 years.
Q. Can I talk to the Judge about a case?
A. No. The Judge must remain independent, impartial and unbiased to both sides to a dispute throughout all phases of the case. The Judge may not speak with one side without the other side being present. Neither he, nor the Court staff, is permitted to give legal advice.
Q. How do I get a public defender?
A. Public defenders are only routinely appointed in criminal cases. If you have a criminal case and want to request a public defender, you should request one at your initial hearing or in writing by completing the Affidavit of Financial Status (see link below) and submitting the affidavit to the Clerk of the Circuit Court (first floor of the courthouse) no later than 7 days prior to your initial hearing. Public defenders are not appointed in civil cases. Public defenders are not routinely appointed in Child in Need of Services (CHINS) cases, but there may be some exceptions. If you are requesting a public defender in a CHINS case, you will need to follow the same procedure with the Affidavit of Financial Status as in a criminal case. Affidavit of Financial Status
Q. How long do I have to wait before I can be divorced?
A. You must wait at least 60 days from the date the case is filed. Unless the parties file a written agreement, waiver of rights and decree of dissolution, they will need to request a hearing date to be held after 60 days.
Q. When will my bond money be returned?
A. After a person posts bond in a criminal matter, the bond will be released minus certain Court cost and fees. The remaining bond monies will be released to the person who posted the bond approximately two weeks after a defendant is sentenced or the case is dismissed.
Q. Do I have to hire an attorney?
A. Any person may represent himself or herself in a court without a lawyer. However, this does not make the judge or the court's staff your lawyer. You must perform just like a lawyer would perform in gathering evidence and other pertinent information. Neither the Judge nor the court's staff can assist you in preparing or presenting your case. The laws and the rules of evidence remain the same whether you are represented by a lawyer or you represent yourself. If you cannot afford an attorney, you may contact the following places to apply for free legal assistance:
Legal Aid, P. O. Box 766, Columbus IN 47202; Telephone No. 1-877-378-0358.
Q. How do I get a continuance of a court date if I don't have an attorney?
A. You need to request the continuance in writing prior to the court date and provide a copy of that request to the all parties in the case. Clearly explain your reasons for the request. Your current address and a phone number should be provided to the Court. You should then contact the Court to see if the continuance has been granted.
The Honorable Murielle S. Bright | Judge
Marnita S. Richart | Court Reporter
Crystal L. Hensley | Court Reporter
Maggi L. Day | Court Reporter
Mariza Schaefer | Court Reporter
PO Box 386
Vernon, IN 47282
Office: (812) 352-3082
200 East Brown Street, Vernon, Indiana 47282, United States