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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. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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