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.
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.