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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. It's a big fat black mark against the US that they radicalized a lot of these Afghan jihadis in the 80s to fight the soviets and then when they predictably got around to biting the hand that fed them, the US had to invade their homelands, install a bunch of corrupt drug kingpins and kleptocrats, take these guys and torture the hell out of them. Why for example did the US have to sodomize them? Dubya said "they hate us for our freedoms!" Here, try some of that freedom whether you like it or not!!! Now they got even more reasons to hate us-- lets just keep bombing the crap out of their populations, installing more puppet regimes, arming one faction against another, etc etc etc.... the US is becoming a monster. No wonder they hate us. Here's my modest recommendation. How about we follow "Just War" theory in the future. St Augustine had it right. How about we treat these obvious prisoners of war according to the Geneva convention instead of torturing them in sadistic and perverted ways.

  2. As usual, John is "spot-on." The subtle but poignant points he makes are numerous and warrant reflection by mediators and users. Oh but were it so simple.

  3. ACLU. Way to step up against the police state. I see a lot of things from the ACLU I don't like but this one is a gold star in its column.... instead of fighting it the authorities should apologize and back off.

  4. Duncan, It's called the RIGHT OF ASSOCIATION and in the old days people believed it did apply to contracts and employment. Then along came title vii.....that aside, I believe that I am free to work or not work for whomever I like regardless: I don't need a law to tell me I'm free. The day I really am compelled to ignore all the facts of social reality in my associations and I blithely go along with it, I'll be a slave of the state. That day is not today......... in the meantime this proposed bill would probably be violative of 18 usc sec 1981 that prohibits discrimination in contracts... a law violated regularly because who could ever really expect to enforce it along the millions of contracts made in the marketplace daily? Some of these so-called civil rights laws are unenforceable and unjust Utopian Social Engineering. Forcing people to love each other will never work.

  5. I am the father of a sweet little one-year-old named girl, who happens to have Down Syndrome. To anyone who reads this who may be considering the decision to terminate, please know that your child will absolutely light up your life as my daughter has the lives of everyone around her. There is no part of me that condones abortion of a child on the basis that he/she has or might have Down Syndrome. From an intellectual standpoint, however, I question the enforceability of this potential law. As it stands now, the bill reads in relevant part as follows: "A person may not intentionally perform or attempt to perform an abortion . . . if the person knows that the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion solely because the fetus has been diagnosed with Down syndrome or a potential diagnosis of Down syndrome." It includes similarly worded provisions abortion on "any other disability" or based on sex selection. It goes so far as to make the medical provider at least potentially liable for wrongful death. First, how does a medical provider "know" that "the pregnant woman is seeking the abortion SOLELY" because of anything? What if the woman says she just doesn't want the baby - not because of the diagnosis - she just doesn't want him/her? Further, how can the doctor be liable for wrongful death, when a Child Wrongful Death claim belongs to the parents? Is there any circumstance in which the mother's comparative fault will not exceed the doctor's alleged comparative fault, thereby barring the claim? If the State wants to discourage women from aborting their children because of a Down Syndrome diagnosis, I'm all for that. Purporting to ban it with an unenforceable law, however, is not the way to effectuate this policy.

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