Kostas v. Johnson

69 N.E.2d 592 (Ind. 1946)

The Facts

A judge failed to act on a filed case within 90 days. Relator filed for the judge to be banned from hearing the case, per statute. Respondent argued that the statute was “unconstitutional and void as a legislative interference with judicial functions insofar as it attempts to fix the time within which a court shall rule upon an issue submitted to it.” Evidence was heard by a regular judge and taken under advisement. The ruling had not been given within 90 days.


Relevant Statute – Judge must decide issue of law or fact within 90 days of filing. If he doesn’t, he’ll be barred from hearing the case and a special judge will be appointed.
Section 1 of Art. 3 of the Constitution of Indiana reads as follows: ‘The powers of the Government are divided into three separate departments; the Legislative, the Executive including the Administrative, and the Judicial; and no person, charged with official duties under one of these departments, shall exercise any of the functions of another, except as in this Constitution expressly provided.’

The Issue

Whether a statute limiting the time in which a case must be decided on is an unconstitutional violation of separation of powers in the IN constitution.

The Holding

The power of the judiciary is entirely vested in the judicial branch, except where it is specifically lodged elsewhere. Any act that hampers the courts’ ability to discharge their judicial duties is therefore null and void. Other cases limiting the time for decisions or requiring the order in which cases will be heard have been held unconstitutional. The court in this case had a back log of cases. It should be within the power of the court to determine the order and timing of their cases if their business is to be expedited.
The court does not acquire its judicial power from the legislature, even if the legislature created the Superior Court of Marion County. The legislature may create courts, but it does not confer and destroy judicial power.

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