ILNews

Court's efforts recognized with 2 awards

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Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard will be busy next week accepting two awards, one for the court's "Why Lincoln Was a Lawyer" program and one for jury-system improvements.

The Indiana Historical Society will recognize the Supreme Court's educational outreach program, Courts in the Classroom, with its 2009 Indiana History Outstanding Project Award. The chief justice will accept the award at the society's Founders Day Dinner Dec. 7.

"To be recognized by the Indiana Historical Society is a great honor," Chief Justice Shepard told Indiana Lawyer in an e-mail. "They are devoted to helping Hoosiers gain a better understanding of our state history. So to have a project that stands out in their minds is really an accomplishment."

"Why Lincoln Was a Lawyer" was an effort of the Supreme Court and Indiana State Bar Association to educate students about Abraham Lincoln's life as a lawyer, Hoosier, and president. The same program was recently recognized by the American Bar Association with its 2009 Law Day Outstanding Activity awards.

"I had high expectations that teachers and students would enjoy the Lincoln program. However, I did not expect to receive so many letters of thanks from judges and attorneys who participated in the program," Chief Justice Shepard said. "Many of the attorneys and judges who participated sent us photographs and thank-you notes that they received from the classrooms where they spoke. I could not have been more pleased with how the program turned out and with the Indiana State Bar Association's partnership."

The Indiana Supreme Court's Judicial Technology and Automation Committee will also be honored by the National Center for State Courts as a recipient of the 2009 G. Thomas Munsterman Award for Jury Innovations. The award recognizes the collaborative efforts of the Supreme Court, Department of Revenue, and Bureau of Motor Vehicles to ensure a broader and more accurate jury system that includes the compilation and distribution of a statewide master jury pool list.

"Having a jury resolve a dispute is a cornerstone to our system of justice. With the technology upgrades to the jury list, we are really using 21st century technology to accomplish one of the most fundamental requirements of our democracy," the chief justice said.

JTAC makes the master jury list available to all Indiana trial courts through a secure Web site, which allows jury administrators to access the lists as they need.

Chief Justice Shepard and Gov. Mitch Daniels will accept the award at the Indiana Judicial Center's winter conference Dec. 11. The two will speak about the importance of Indiana's statewide master jury pool list and other court technology projects.

The chief justice said he is pleased that Gov. Daniels will attend the conference to share in the award because partnering with his administration is one of the main reasons the project is a success.

"We are so pleased with this new electronic method created by our Judicial Technology and Automation Committee. It's just another example of the many projects we are working on devoted to improving court technology," said Chief Justice Shepard.

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  2. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  3. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

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