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Chief Justice Shepard gives final State of the Judiciary

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Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard gave his final State of the Judiciary on Wednesday, recapping not only the past 12 months, but also highlighting court initiatives and changes that have occurred during the quarter century he spent as chief justice.

In his 27-minute speech titled, “On the Way to Something Better,” the chief justice focused on the process of building a more unified and purposeful court system. He detailed achievements that the court and legal community have experienced throughout his tenure.

This was the 25th time Shepard has given the constitutionally required speech to the Indiana General Assembly, and it was his last time doing so before his retirement in March.

“The yesterday of Indiana’s courts lasted largely unchanged over decades, and as in many other states our courts were a collection of silos that rarely connected,” he said. “That began to change about a generation ago, and over time Indiana’s courts have become less like a collection of Lone Rangers and more like a group of colleagues with a common purpose.”

All four of the remaining justices and members of the Indiana Court of Appeals attended, as did dozens of trial court judges and state court officials who watched from the fourth-floor balcony overlooking the House of Representatives. Former Justices Ted Boehm, Myra Selby and Roger DeBruler were also present, along with former Indiana first lady Judy O’Bannon.

Shepard praised court reform efforts to unify state court jurisdictions and allow for more collaboration, including improvements to court technology. He mentioned a statewide case management system that allows women’s shelters direct access to the Protective Order Registry.

The chief justice cited family law and criminal justice as areas where the state judiciary is better equipped to resolve disputes today than it has ever been before. He said Indiana has more volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates than at any time in the state’s history, with the largest group of 1,010 volunteers being trained in 2011.

Shepard talked about court reform efforts such as simplifying the Indiana Rules of Evidence and ensuring consistent caselaw at the appellate level to provide guidance for trial courts and lawyers, and he said those have helped hold down litigation costs and improve access to the legal system. The chief justice also discussed Indiana State Bar Association efforts to create the first statewide lawyer-leadership academy with the help of Justice Steven David, and credited the Indiana Conference For Legal Education Opportunity with helping the state double the number of minority attorneys practicing in Indiana.

He said the “graciousness” of lawmakers and judges he has worked with over the years “will allow me to leave the stage with full confidence that we will succeed in building Indiana as a safe and prosperous and decent place.

“The scores, if not hundreds of times when members of the General Assembly have been willing partners in improving the delivery of justice have been a great gift,” he said. “Those many moments, and the demonstrated achievements by so many of the men and women on the bench and in the bar, are the reasons why I say that Indiana will have an even better system of justice tomorrow than it has today.”

The full 2012 State of the Judiciary can be viewed online, and an expanded story will appear in the Jan. 20-Feb. 2, 2012, print edition of Indiana Lawyer.

 

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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