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Annual address praises court activity despite economy, changing times

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Even though times are tough, the Indiana chief justice says the Hoosier judiciary remains strong and continues to be a leader that other states look to as an example.

Giving his 24th annual State of the Judiciary speech before a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly on Jan. 12, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard praised the state court system’s efforts during the past year that have materialized despite the economic climate and lack of resources for everyone.

Referring to the public commentary that is happening in Indiana and nationwide on how broken government is and that public leaders aren’t listening to constituents, the chief justice talked about how the legal community has responded and proven that it can rise above the economic crisis.
 

state-judiciary2011-15col Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard gave his annual State of the Judiciary on Jan. 12 in front of the Indiana General Assembly. This marked the 24th time he has delivered that speech before a joint session of state lawmakers. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“In short, Indiana’s judiciary is one that keeps its feet planted firmly on this territory, on Hoosier soil, while keeping its eyes on the horizon,” Chief Justice Shepard said. He highlighted four areas where he observed the state courts thriving during 2010.

Mortgage foreclosures: With foreclosure filings higher last year than in 2009 and many courts burdened with those cases, the chief justice highlighted how homeowners now have the opportunity to participate in a settlement conference. He stated that more than 40 percent of homeowners respond when a court sends out a separate settlement notice. The conferences are currently used in counties having 60 percent of the foreclosures, and Chief Justice Shepard said they’ll be implemented statewide by the end of this year, along with the best practices document State Court Administration recently published to help judges outline case management plans.

Smarter sentencing: As the state legislature discusses how to revise sentencing so that high-risk offenders receive appropriate sentences and are incarcerated, the chief justice explained that local corrections officials have already been tackling that issue. He discussed how a risk assessment tool recently became mandatory for every criminal and delinquency court statewide, and he said that 2,300 probation officers, judges, and court staff have been trained to use it.

Technology: Praising the continued implementation of the statewide case management system called Odyssey, the chief justice said it is currently being used in 77 courts in 26 counties and at least 175 courts are on a waiting list to participate. The participation reflects use in a third of the state’s courts since the project began in late 2007, and he urged lawmakers to temporarily increase from $7 to $10 the automated record-keeping fee to help speed up the process. The chief justice also praised other technology avenues that have been put into place during the past year, including electronic notification systems tracking police citations, protective orders in domestic violence cases, and when someone is adjudicated mentally ill so those individuals can be kept from obtaining firearms.

Jury instructions: The chief justice stated that the state unveiled new instructions last fall, taking much of the legalese out of courtroom instructions and replacing it with examples and language that non-attorneys can easily understand.

“The men and women of the Indiana courts tackle all these issues and more, both through long-range strategic planning and through immediate action,” Chief Justice Shepard said. “So, it’s with the men and women of Indiana’s courts, who’ve proven themselves able at diagnosing a defect or identifying an opportunity, recruiting talented people, and capable of seizing the moment on the basis of the best ideas available.”•

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  1. From his recent appearance on WRTV to this story here, Frank is everywhere. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy, although he should stop using Eric Schnauffer for his 7th Circuit briefs. They're not THAT hard.

  2. They learn our language prior to coming here. My grandparents who came over on the boat, had to learn English and become familiarize with Americas customs and culture. They are in our land now, speak ENGLISH!!

  3. @ Rebecca D Fell, I am very sorry for your loss. I think it gives the family solace and a bit of closure to go to a road side memorial. Those that oppose them probably did not experience the loss of a child or a loved one.

  4. If it were your child that died maybe you'd be more understanding. Most of us don't have graves to visit. My son was killed on a state road and I will be putting up a memorial where he died. It gives us a sense of peace to be at the location he took his last breath. Some people should be more understanding of that.

  5. Can we please take notice of the connection between the declining state of families across the United States and the RISE OF CPS INVOLVEMENT??? They call themselves "advocates" for "children's rights", however, statistics show those children whom are taken from, even NEGLIGENT homes are LESS likely to become successful, independent adults!!! Not to mention the undeniable lack of respect and lack of responsibility of the children being raised today vs the way we were raised 20 years ago, when families still existed. I was born in 1981 and I didn't even ever hear the term "CPS", in fact, I didn't even know they existed until about ten years ago... Now our children have disagreements between friends and they actually THREATEN EACH OTHER WITH, "I'll call CPS" or "I'll have [my parent] (usually singular) call CPS"!!!! And the truth is, no parent is perfect and we all have flaws and make mistakes, but it is RIGHTFULLY OURS - BY THE CONSTITUTION OF THIS GREAT NATION - to be imperfect. Let's take a good look at what kind of parenting those that are stealing our children are doing, what kind of adults are they producing? WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS TO THE CHILDREN THAT HAVE BEEN RIPPED FROM THEIR FAMILY AND THAT CHILD'S SUCCESS - or otherwise - AS AN ADULT.....

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