Judicial Conference releases 10-year strategic plan to improve Indiana justice system

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A strategic plan to improve Indiana’s justice system over the next 10 years has been released by the Judicial Conference of Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court announced Tuesday.

Titled “2020 Forward,” the strategic plan urges reform using goals that “are worth pursuing because they chart an approach for greater accountability and enhanced access to justice in Indiana,” according to the court.

The Judicial Conference Board of Directors, which serves as a policy-making board for the judiciary and represents the more than 400 trial and appellate court judges across the state, voted in favor of the plan, which concentrates efforts in these seven areas:

Access to justice: Take a serious look at race, equity, resources, legal aid, imposition of fines, and jury selection.

Security: Improve court safety.

Technology: Embrace technology to more efficiently serve court users.

Clerk functions: Pursue improvements to clerk and court operations.

Court structure: Simplify the court structure to improve the process.

Judicial selection: Adopt more uniform and less partisan methods of selection.

Centralized funding: Remove the inefficient and unfair piecemeal approach to paying for courts.

The plan was presented to the 46-member Judicial Conference of Indiana in September by strategic planning co-chairs, Grant Circuit Court Judge Mark Spitzer and LaPorte Superior Judge Richard Stalbrink, Jr. on behalf of the 12-member Strategic Planning Committee. 

“We proposed an outline for the future of the Indiana judiciary which contains ideas central to improving the professionalism, efficiency, and effectiveness of the courts,” Spitzer said.

“Our committee intends this document to create discussion and to encourage feedback on ways to improve our judicial system,” Stalbrink added.

The Judicial Conference unveiled its first strategic plan in 2008, “A New Way Forward.” Then in 2010, “The Next Steps to a New Way Forward” revealed further progress on the judicial branch’s blueprint for excellence.

Concepts outlined in both of those plans have become reality, the Indiana Supreme Court said, including increased judicial education requirements, better collaboration between districts, clear direction on court records, legislation to require city and town court judges to be lawyers, legislation to implement merit selection in Marion County, and the study of court workloads and staffing needs.

“This newest strategic plan is a continuation of the judicial branch’s thoughtful approach to providing fair and open courts in Indiana,” the high court said.

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