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Judiciary announces court reforms

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The Indiana Judicial Conference unveiled its "roadmap for the future" today for the Indiana courts, which included consolidating courts and creating a uniform system to select trial judges. At the Indiana Judicial Conference, Indiana Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard discussed the long-term strategic plan's goals to improve the professionalism, efficiency, and effectiveness of the state's judiciary.

After 15 meetings across Indiana beginning in December 2008, the Strategic Planning Committee produced the 27-page document as a blueprint detailing the judiciary's vision for the future. The document isn't intended to be a detailed implementation plan ready for adoption by the legislature, but is an aspiration and vision for the future.

Some areas identified for improvement include increasing CLE requirements for judges and developing minimum standards for court staff; incorporating city, town, and township small claims courts into the trial courts; providing state funding for courts and court-related services; and reducing the seven different methods of selecting trial court judges in the state to a uniform system.

The plan calls for state funding of the trial courts in order to allocate resources fairly. Currently, the state pays for some salaries and court programs and county councils pay for other salaries and programs. Figures aren't yet available on the impact of funding changes.

Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker and Marion Superior Judge Mark Stoner are co-chairs of the Strategic Planning Committee. They say Indiana's complex court system needs to be changed so that it's clear and easy for citizens to understand. Duplication of efforts and inefficiencies that cost taxpayers money should be streamlined or eliminated.

Some aspects of the plan are ready to be implemented, including those dealing with education and training.

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