The trial court has an affirmative duty to hear and decide motions and other matters pending before it, including the entry of judgment following a bench trial. When a court unreasonably delays ruling on a motion or entry of judgment, Ind. Trial R. 53.1 and 53.2 allow a party to withdraw the case from the judge, and have the matter transferred to the Indiana Supreme Court for the appointment of a special judge. The purpose of these Rules is to compel a trial court to decide matters promptly and thereby to expedite the litigation process.
Trial R. 53.1 and 53.2 are not self-executing. The process to remove a case from the sitting judge must be initiated by one of the litigants.
Trial R. 53.1 allows a party to withdraw an action where the trial court fails to schedule a hearing within 30 days on a pending motion, fails to rule within 30 days after a hearing, or fails to rule on a motion within 30 days after it was filed if no hearing is required. Once the court conducts a hearing, the 30 day period is calculated from the date of hearing not the date the motion is filed. For purposes of Trial R. 53.1, a court sets a motion for hearing on the date the setting is noted in the Chronological Case Summary.
Trial R. 53.2 allows a party to withdraw where the trial court fails to determine any issue of law or fact within 90 days after the matter has been tried and taken under advisement. The court is deemed to have ruled at the time the ruling is noted in the Chronological Case Summary.
Trial R. 53.1 and 53.2 received a major over-haul from the Indiana Supreme Court on January 1, 2012. The new procedure for withdrawing a submission from the trial court, both for a failure to rule under
Trial R. 53.1 or 53.2, is set forth in Trial R. 53.1(E). The moving party must file a praecipe specifically designating the motion or decision that has been delayed. The matter may not be withdrawn during the pendency of a trial court’s application to extend the time to rule. Once filed, the Executive Director of the Division of State Court Administration for the Indiana Supreme Court must determine whether the trial judge failed to rule in a timely manner. If the Executive Director determines the ruling or decision has not been delayed, he shall provide a written notice of determination to the clerk of the trial court and the submission will not be withdrawn. Conversely, if delayed, the Executive Director shall give written notice to the trial judge, the clerk of the trial court, and the Clerk of the Indiana Supreme Court that the submission has been withdrawn. The withdrawal will relate back to the date the praecipe to withdraw was filed. The Executive Director then submits the case to the Supreme Court to appoint a special judge or take such other action as the Court deems appropriate. An original action may be used to enforce a party’s remedy under Trial R. 53.1 or 53.2.
These rules are discussed more fully in Stephen E. Arthur, 22B, Civil Trial Rule Handbook (2012 ed.), § 53.1:1 and 53.2:1.