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Projects will expedite transcripts, require appellate e-filing in some courts by Aug. 1

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The conversion of three Indiana courts to video transcripts is one of three pilot projects that will start in selected courts in the next several weeks, all of them intended to find ways to make the appeals process thriftier and more efficient.

A second pilot aims to slash the transcript-filing time from 90 days to 30 days by using private transcription services to assist court reporters, and a third will involve electronic filing – either online or on CDs – of the appellate record.

The court pilot projects are looking at “faster, better, cheaper ways of getting the record done,” said Lilia Judson, executive director of the Division of State Court Administration for the Indiana Supreme Court, which is working with the Court of Appeals to implement the projects.

Court of Appeals Chief Judge Margret Robb said that while the pilots are a project of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals will do the heavy lifting.

A panel comprising Judges Cale Bradford, James Kirsch and Melissa May will review all of the cases involving the pilot projects. “Part of that is so there can be a good evaluation of the three projects,” Robb said. “I think this was an attempt to have people who were willing and open-minded with no preconceived idea of what they like and didn’t like, and who could clearly evaluate the pluses and minuses of each,” Robb said.

“The American Bar Association standard and the federal rule both allow 30 days” to file transcripts for appeals, Kirsch said. “Indiana allows 90 days, or three times the standard. In a time of exploding technology, this should be an embarrassment.”

For appeals in which the transcript has been prepared in 30 days, the judges also will track time spent on each step of the appellate process, according to a summary of the project.

Kirsch said Indiana’s steps toward shortening the transcription time are overdue.

“The time period for the preparation of the trial court record and transcript is the longest part of the appellate process and substantially extends the time that litigants must wait for the decisions that will affect their lives,” Kirsch said.

Kofi Anokwa, an Indiana Conference for Legal Education Opportunity fellow interning with Robb, analyzed state laws regarding time allowed for filing transcripts. Indiana is one of just four states allowing 90 days, according to Anokwa’s research. Twice as many states require filing in 30 days or less.
 

smith-maggie-mug Smith

Frost Brown Todd counsel Maggie Smith is past chair of the Appellate Section of the Indiana State Bar Association and also serves on the Indiana Supreme Court Rules Committee. She agreed the pilots were overdue.

“It’s long been the section’s belief that 90 days is excessive and certainly is not needed in today’s age of digital technology,” Smith said.

The reduction in filing time is complicated, though, by technology that is not uniform across Indiana’s decentralized courts, some of which don’t have digital transcription capability, Smith said. The longer time period to file also is influenced by a culture that tends to use all the time available to prepare and submit court documents, even those that could be done in little time.



“The nature of the practice, whether court reporter, clerk or attorney, is to live within the timeframe allotted,” she said. “That’s even more reason to tighten up the transcript preparation. … People take as long as you give them.”

Smith said Indiana ideally could move to a system limited to 30 days for filing appellate transcripts, allowing requests for extensions in cases where more time is warranted, such as lengthy trials or complicated proceedings. “While I think as a practitioner I and my clients would love 30 days, initially, if the technology is improved, we’d be happy if they cut it down to 60 days.”

Bradford said the pilots also acknowledge court personnel have ever-growing duties, and the effort to expedite transcripts will give them the assistance they need to meet the task by hiring one or more private transcription services.

Electronic record filing also would streamline the appellate process, Bradford said.

“We constantly have conversations here on our court about what it would be like to do that,” he said of receiving the appellate record electronically or on a CD. “This will be an opportunity for our judges to do it and see how they like it.”

Smith said Indiana Appellate Rule 30 already allows electronic filing, but “nobody does it.” It’s not a requirement, and all parties must agree to it.

The appellate section of the ISBA has not opposed proposals that would require electronic filings in Indiana appellate courts, she said. Venues such as the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals already have such requirements.

The court pilot projects appear to be moving incrementally toward ways of doing business that embrace technology that will become prevalent, if not standard, in the future, Smith said.

“It’s preparing people. Ultimately, you’re going to have electronic filing at every level, I think,” she added.

Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson said the video record, expedited transcripts and e-filing initiatives could have wider impact on Indiana courts in time. He said the pilots as a whole are nothing particularly new or alarming.

“We’ve always been concerned about resolving appeals as quickly as possible. We know that it’s a burden upon litigants to have to wait for decisions, and one of the most time-consuming elements is the time it takes to prepare a record,” Dickson said.


Dickson Dickson

Indiana Supreme Court spokesperson Kathryn Dolan said some logistics of the pilots still are being worked out. Those include which courts will be selected to expedite transcripts and file electronically, and decisions should be made soon. The goal is to get the projects implemented in the courts by Aug. 1.

The courts also will be looking for reaction to the projects.

“We are working on a survey for judges, law clerks, clerk of the court staff, and lawyers who will be involved with the pilot project. We will also solicit input from these individuals independent of the survey,” Dolan said.

“We’re interested to see the results,” Dickson said. “We’re keeping an open mind and hope the leaders working on these various projects will produce some recommendations that will make a difference in our ability to provide swifter and more accurate justice.”•

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  1. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  2. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  3. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  4. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

  5. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

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