Low bar pass rates, court technology among justices' top concerns
Indiana Supreme Court justices gathered Tuesday morning to answer questions about e-filing goals, bar exam concerns and increased rates of self-reported lawyer and judge wellbeing, among other highlights of the court’s 2017-2018 annual report.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush emphasized 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 advancing technology in Indiana courts. That push includes a transition from paper filing to electronic filing, which is now complete in 90 percent of Indiana trial courts. Likewise, nearly 80 percent of the state’s caseload is handled through the Odyssey case management system. Rush said roughly 150,000 documents are filed electronically each week, promoting efficiency and reducing 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 it allows people to find their cases more easily online at mycase.in.gov. It also reminds litigants to show up in court through text messages to prevent no-shows. Rush said roughly 160,000 texts have been sent to 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. Just 62 percent passed the most recent bar exam in July. Rush said the high court wants to ensure Indiana’s bar exam is reflective of the high standard 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 help from JLAP were self-referals, and there was a 10 percent increase in calls from law students.
“We’re seeing more attorneys and judges self-report or head it off at the pass in regard to their well-being,” Rush said.
Further findings from the 2017-2018 annual report can be found here.