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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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