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Dickson's State of Judiciary highlights interplay of judiciary, Legislature

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Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson’s first State of the Judiciary address after 27 years on the bench produced a few collegial chuckles as he offered examples of checks and balances and noted lawmakers had rewritten laws in response to at least three Supreme Court opinions in the last year.

“You determine public policy and make the laws, and we follow and apply them, whether we like them or not,” Dickson told a joint session of the Indiana General Assembly on Jan. 23. “And if you disagree with the way we interpret a statute you’ve written, you amend it as you wish. That’s the Indiana way.”
 

dickson-brent-speechbp-15col.jpg Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson, right, delivers his State of the Judiciary address to the Indiana Legislature on Jan. 23 as Gov. Mike Pence looks on. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Dickson later made a plea for greater funding to expand the Odyssey case management system, asking the help of lawmakers who in 2011 rejected a request to increase a $7 case filing fee to $10. The Legislature responded by reducing the fee to less than $5.

Procuring money to expand Odyssey is “one of our most urgent priorities,” Dickson said. “The court intends to do everything we can to bring our Odyssey system as soon as possible to every county that wants it. But this requires more resources. The court really needs help from the General Assembly this session to upgrade the necessary filing fee revenue stream.”
 

long-david-mug Long

Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, paid tribute to Dickson as “an outstanding jurist” in a news conference a day later, but he was doubtful about more money for Odyssey.

“The issue is the cost of it has grown astronomically from what we were originally told,” Long said. Mounting case-filing fees for a variety of purposes “are making it very difficult for us to justify more fees when it’s crushing certain people,” especially those of modest means, he said.

Raising court filing fees is “a little harder sell in the Senate than it used to be,” Long said.


massa Massa

Nevertheless, Justice Mark Massa said he will press for adoption of House Bill 1393, which would raise the automated record-keeping fee from $5 to $10 in most cases. “There are a lot of competing interests for finite state resources,” he said. “Sen. Long and the legislative leadership have got challenges every year in deciding how to allocate those finite resources.

“This project continues to be important to the judiciary,” as a whole, Massa said. Without an increase in Odyssey funding, he added, “our deployment efforts would grind to a halt pretty quickly.”

Massa said the fee increase would generate about an extra $4 million annually for Odyssey expansion. “It would certainly allow us to deploy it in all 23 counties that are on the waiting list right now,” he said. The system is in use in 146 courts in 45 counties, according to Mary DePrez, director and counsel for trial court technology for the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee at the Division of State Court Administration. About 40 percent of Indiana’s caseload is managed by Odyssey.


sullivan-frank-no-robe Sullivan

Massa is the court’s liaison to JTAC, succeeding retired Justice Frank Sullivan, who said he was pleased that Dickson made the case for expanding Odyssey and devoted a fair amount of his address to talking about how it can share information with numerous agencies from local police and state agencies.

“I’m a strong believer in the importance of equipping all Indiana courts with 21st century case management systems and then connecting them to each other,” Sullivan said. “I thought Chief Justice Dickson made the case for that very well. … how many counties are standing in line waiting for Odyssey, and the commitment of the Supreme Court to provide Odyssey to every court that wants it; there was no sense of a kind of top-down mandate.”

Sullivan, who departed the bench this past summer and is a professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis, said the tone of Dickson’s speech was “exactly right.”

“He’s been just a superb member of the Supreme Court for some time. It was nice to see him have this moment in the sunshine,” Sullivan said. He noted a difference in speeches he heard from Shepard over the years compared with Dickson’s address.

Shepard “would spend a whole lot of time on generally three or four topics. Chief Justice Dickson chose to paint a somewhat broader picture of the landscape of what the Indiana judiciary is doing,” Sullivan said.

“A point he made very effectively is there is both an adjudicative and a non-adjudicative role the judiciary plays,” he said. “And the Legislature has a role in that to provide the resources to do that.”

Dickson noted in his address the “massive change” for the court recently, in which he succeeded retired Chief Justice Randall Shepard, and the appointments of justices Steven David, Massa and Loretta Rush in the past several years.“We intend that the ‘new’ court will be a continuance, and even an enhancement, of the things admired in the ‘old’ one,” Dickson said.

But he also acknowledged the massive changes in the judiciary in the time he’s served as a justice. “When I was appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court in 1986, it was a very different place than it is now,” he said, noting criminal cases comprised 93 percent of the caseload, and the court heard very few civil appeals.

“The access of everyday Hoosiers to their Supreme Court for such a wide assortment of cases would have been impossible 25 years ago,” he said.

He also looked ahead at some of the key initiatives being undertaken in courts around the state. Juvenile justice reform is a priority for the court, particularly the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative that has rolled out in eight counties and serves 34 percent of the state’s at-risk youth.

“This is a proven model that really works to improve community safety, to get more kids on the right track, to reduce school dropout rates, to reduce juvenile detention and to lower incarceration rates,” Dickson said.

Dickson also made a plea for attorneys to serve Hoosiers of limited means. “We want to encourage and empower Indiana lawyers to more fully realize the vision of their oaths and the Code of Professional Responsibility which requires that they serve ‘the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed, or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance.’”•

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  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

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