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Court reform plan starts with enhanced education proposal

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As part of a larger court reform plan, the governing board of the Judicial Conference of Indiana wants more required education for judges at the state appellate and trial levels.

The board voted unanimously for enhanced educational requirements and has forwarded a proposed rule change to the Indiana Supreme Court for consideration. No timetable exists for when justices must decide that.

Currently, Indiana judges must obtain at least 36 hours for every three-year reporting period, and they must have at least six hours of Continuing Legal Education each year as well as no more than 12 hours of non-legal subject matter courses. Three ethics hours also are required every three years.

Under the new rule proposal, the Judicial Education Committee recommends that judges would need at least 54 hours every three years, or 15 hours annually, and no more than 18 hours could be in non-legal subjects. An extra two hours of ethics learning would be required every three-year period, too.

This would be mandatory for any state level judicial officer, which includes appellate judges and justices, trial judges, magistrates, and full-time commissioners and referees. Requirements for senior judges, part-time court officers, and city and town court judges wouldn’t change.

The point is to ensure that jurists have more educational requirements than the practicing attorneys who come before them. Court leaders say that is mostly the case now, but this would make it mandatory.

This educational rule enhancement is part of the state judiciary’s broad court reform plan unveiled in September, which sets out long-term plans and priorities for improving the Indiana court system through improved education, streamlining and reorganizing court operations and structures, uniform state funding, and an examination of statewide judicial selection.

“Implementation of the strategic plan is moving forward,” said Marion Superior Judge Mark Stoner, who co-chairs the Strategic Planning Committee. “The first step is to require enhanced education for judges which will ensure they are given the tools to improve their skills and knowledge of the law. Better educated judges will improve the quality of justice for citizens.”
 

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