The Indiana Supreme Court has created an additional avenue to improving Hoosiers’ access to justice and public trust in the judiciary through the newly established Indiana Commission on Equity and Access in the Court System.
The 21-member commission, announced in a Wednesday Supreme Court order, represents all three branches of government and includes educators, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and other professionals.
“Together, we have reformed our pretrial and bail practices; created pathways to the legal profession for college graduates from underrepresented populations, including those who are Black and Brown, low-income, or educationally disadvantaged; and instituted more collaborative, community-driven problem-solving courts as alternatives to the adversarial system,” Chief Justice Loretta Rush wrote in the Sept. 15 order.
“But we know that there is still much to achieve and that the ideal of justice feels out of reach for many. Our state court system can and must do better.”
As ordered by the high court, the commission is tasked with:
- Providing an independent and comprehensive review of Indiana’s state court systems, policies, and practices;
- Identifying areas of strength and areas where additional resources and efforts are needed in order to achieve greater and more equal access to justice; and
- Establishing workgroups as needed to provide recommendations on ways to address these identified issues within the legal system.
Justice Steven David will chair the commission, with attorneys Deborah Daniels of Krieg DeVault and Norris Cunningham of Katz Korin Cunningham serving as vice-chairs.
Additionally, the Supreme Court hired Dr. Gina Forrest in July 2021 to serve as its chief diversity officer to provide support to the equity and access commission.
The commission can request pilot projects to address immediate critical issues and will submit a written report with findings and recommendations to the court by Dec. 31, 2022.
The Office of Judicial Administration will assign staff to assist the commission, and membership of the commission may change as the work continues, the high court order says.
More information about the commission and a list of its members can be found here.