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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. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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