The Community Justice Campus (CJC for short) has been open for business for three months, so I would like to take the opportunity to provide some reflections and information about the transition and our current operations. What follows is a compilation of thoughts from yours truly along with my judicial colleagues and team members of our court administration. While there were certainly some hiccups during the move and we continue to encounter periodic challenges — both of which would be expected in ANY move — I think overall the process has gone fairly smoothly. We are all still learning and adjusting, as I know the lawyers and litigants are as well, and we appreciate everyone’s patience over these past few months.
Not to start off on a negative note, but it’s one I heard repeatedly, and it bears stating with emphasis. PLEASE do not be rude or disrespectful to our court staff, or for that matter, anyone working within the CJC. A practice tip: When an attorney berates someone at the information desk or other employee within the building, the judges hear about it, and we know who you are. When an employee is mistreated, you might as well be saying it to the judge’s face — do you really want to taint your reputation in that way? Hopefully, enough said on this topic.
The Legal Resource Center, located on the fourth floor of the CJC, has been open for business since June 1 for unrepresented litigants. As the name suggests, the center provides information and resources to litigants, not attorneys. We have two court navigators, Peyton Barr and Brian O’Keefe, who have undertaken their new roles with enthusiasm and compassion. Since the opening, they have connected nearly 500 customers over approximately 15,000 minutes with legal and community resources and low or no-cost legal services. The litigants have provided overwhelmingly positive feedback, expressing gratitude for the navigators’ willingness to listen and provide them with information. Beginning Aug. 18, attorneys from Indiana Legal Services will provide much needed assistance for those seeking guardianships on Thursday mornings. We are seeking volunteer attorneys in all practice areas and working with IndyBar on this process. If you are interested in sparing a few hours a month or during the year, please reach out to me and we will get you on the list.
The attorney workroom is also on the fourth floor and is open to any attorney. It is a quiet space to hang out between hearings. Attorneys also have the use of the plethora of attorney conference rooms located throughout the building.
If your clients must bring their children to the CJC, or for those hearings in which the children are a party, there are children’s spaces on floors 1 — 3 and within the Legal Resource Center and the Family Facilitation Center. You will find comfy and welcoming children’s furniture and books (many of which were provided by you, so THANK YOU!)
From technology extraordinaire Judge Marc Rothenberg: Use the new equipment without fear. While the technology at the Community Justice Campus may seem intimidating, it’s quite simple to use. Make your final arguments professional-looking with our NOMAD display unit. Use any device to present your case. Remember, you can always make an appointment to come in prior to your hearing to learn how to use the new equipment. Also keep in mind that the NOMAD does not “admit” evidence; it simply displays it. You still should e-file your exhibits (unless the judge gives other instructions).
From Family Division Term Chair Judge Marshelle Broadwell: Three months into our move, I am really excited about the opportunities and services created for our families — like the Legal Resource Center and Family Facilitation Center. I’m also optimistic about the future, when the Youth and Family Services Center opens, bringing the juvenile delinquency causes onto the campus with the rest of the court’s functions. The Family Division was created in 2021, and our move to the CJC ended the division’s split across two facilities — 25th & Keystone and the City-County Building. The Family Division was created with a goal of collaboration to benefit families in trauma with cases pending across our system; the CJC facilitates the kind of collaboration envisioned for the division. Recently, I had the opportunity to conduct an in-person, three-day evidentiary hearing. The new facility absolutely made things better, and easier. The technology in the courtroom seamlessly accommodated remote and in-person witnesses. We were able to eliminate the passing and subsequent storage of paper exhibits through the NOMAD system. Both sides were able to consult privately in attorney conference rooms. Finally, the hearing proceeded in a courtroom designed specifically for family matters with sufficient counsel tables and technological equipment for three parties — petitioner, respondent and guardian ad litem. I really appreciate the positivity and patience shown by so many members of our legal community as we all navigate the new campus and equipment, and I look forward to continuing to talk with the bar about how the Family Division can better serve you and your clients at the CJC!
From Jury Services Supervising Judge Heather Welch: With change comes unease and sometimes fear. While I had some trepidation in learning how to operate in the new courthouse, it has been much easier than I anticipated. The jury services facilities in the CJC are a wonderful change that are making it easier for staff and judges to manage prospective jurors and jury trials generally. Since May of 2022, the number of prospective jurors who have appeared has increased since our move to the CJC. I am guessing the free juror parking close to the entrance of the CJC and the information desk located just past the security checkpoint have both been a great benefit. The actual jury services space provides an easy entrance and check-in process for the jurors, and the large room is outfitted with state-of-the-art technology for the jurors to watch a video about jury service, the chairs are much more comfortable for long periods of time, and we provide free Wi-Fi to allow the jurors to check messages or conduct other work or personal matters electronically. A few significant and beneficial changes are lactation rooms for nursing mothers and a quiet room for jurors who need to work while they wait. The jury services space was well designed to provide a kitchen area. This has allowed the courts to create mobile carts for each jury which has various drinks and snacks available to jurors. Overall, the jury services space and the courtrooms, which also have the state-of-the-art technology, have benefited the courts in trying cases by jury and the Marion County citizens who appear for jury duty.
I’ll end with food options, a topic always on everyone’s mind: The canteen, similar to the one in the CCB, has been open since May. We are eagerly anticipating the Grab and Go, which will contain a coffee bar, and there are rumors of another coffee shop opening in the next six months. (Oh, PLEASE let it be true). We also have been able to secure a food truck almost daily. The probation office building on the campus will be open early next year with retail establishments on the first floor. It is likely that more food and drink options will be available once that transition occurs.
As you can see, a lot has been accomplished in a few short months. We will continue to tweak operations on our end, with the goal of improved access to justice and a better judicial experience for all involved.•