More than 7,000 Indiana attorneys donated more than 220,000 hours of pro bono service to Hoosiers in need last year, numbers Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush said reflect the state judiciary’s commitment to a collaborative approach to the practice of law.
In her third State of the Judiciary address as chief justice on Wednesday, Rush praised pro bono attorneys and other partners who advocate for that collaborative approach and work together to make “progress every day to make practical improvements to the courts.”
Rush’s address took the General Assembly on a “tour” of the judiciary across the state, highlighting recent judicial initiatives in counties throughout Indiana.
The chief justice made special note of the court’s recent technology initiatives and praised Hamilton County clerk Tammy Baitz and Chief Deputy Debbie LePere for their efforts in leading the state’s conversion to e-filing. In the 18 months since e-filing was unveiled in Indiana, more than 25 percent of counties now utilize electronic filing, with 30,000 documents filed electronically each week.
But Rush also drew attention to more concerning statistics, such as the 23 percent increase in children in need of services cases. Last year, 18,000 Hoosier kids entered the child welfare system due to parental neglect or crime, include a “frightening frequency” in the number of children born addicted to drugs.
The chief justice praised the state’s 3,400 Court Appointed Special Advocates who serve on behalf of those children and invited Kadi, an 8-year-old Monroe County girl, to introduce her adoptive parents to the legislature. Kadi, who was born to birth parents who could not care for her health needs, was led to her adoptive parents with the help of her CASA volunteer, Rush said.
Aside from highlighting other court programs, such as the Veterans Courts, Commercial Courts, Juvenile Detentions Alternatives Initiative and others, Rush invited Justice Robert Rucker, the longest-serving justice currently on the Indiana bench, to join her on the stage as she honored him for his years of service and congratulated him on his impending retirement. Rucker was met with two standing ovations.
Video and a transcript of the 2017 State of the Judiciary address, and an archive of past addresses, is available here.
Read more about Rush’s State of the Judiciary address in the Jan. 25 issue of the Indiana Lawyer.