Justices discuss annual report: bar exams passage, E-filing goals

Indiana Supreme Court justices gathered Tuesday morning to answer questions about its 2017-2018 annual report, including e-filing goals, bar exam concerns and increased rates of self-reported lawyer and judge well-being.  

Chief Justice Loretta Rush began the discussion by offering observations about several of the report’s highlights, emphasizing the importance of remaining transparent about what the court is doing behind closed doors.

“Sometimes the judicial branch is the least understood branch of government, so in doing an annual report we hope, in plain language, to understand the working of our branch of government,” Rush said.

Among discussion of the report’s findings was the push towards advancing technology in Indiana courts. That push included a complete upheaval of paper filing to electronic filing, which now covers 90 percent of Indiana trial courts. Nearly 80 percent of the state’s caseload handled through the Odyssey case management system. Rush said that roughly 150,000 documents are filed electronically each week, reducing cost and waste.

“The goal is to be completely paperless in the near future,” she said. “Some counties are waiting until they get on the unified case management system to switch to Odyssey.”

When asked how the move to computerized data bases and e-filing benefits Hoosiers, Rush said the it allows people to find their cases more easily and reminds them to show up in court through text messages to prevent no-shows. Rush said roughly 160,000 texts have been sent to the pilot counties in the past month.

“The public can look at their cases, businesses can look at different commercial court cases to see how they’re moving through the system,” she said. “I think there’s a level of transparency. We have a lot of cases for all to look at online.”

Justices also discussed continued concerns surrounding steadily declining bar passage rates in the state. Rush said the high court wants to ensure Indiana’s bar exam is reflective of the high standard held for the legal profession.

“There’s work to be done. We’re actually talking intensely now and we’ll soon be releasing a plan on what we’re going to be looking at and learning from going forward,” Rush told reporters. “We want to look nationally at what’s working, what’s working here, and what’s not. We’re going to take a hard look at the model we have now and make sure it’s the right model for Indiana and keep an eye on those rates.”

The discussion concluded on the note that the justices have seen a 12 percent increase of self-referrals to the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. In 2018, 51 percent of legal professionals who sought out help from JLAP did so through self-referrals. Also the program noted a 10 percent increase in calls from law students.

“We’re seeing more attorneys and judges self-report or hit it off at the pass in regard to their wellbeing,” Rush said.

Further findings from the 2017-2018 annual report can be found here.

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