By Tyler Gribbons
Hoosiers have more access to the state's high court now than would have even been possible 25 years ago, Chief Justice Brent Dickson told lawmakers Wednesday in his first State of the Judiciary address.
But thanks to state constitutional amendments passed by lawmakers and Hoosiers, the high court now hears a wide range of cases from issues such as counterfeiting to family law, he said.
"The Indiana Supreme Court has since been able to seriously see Indiana law in all kinds of cases," Dickson said.
The chief justice also said that new programs mean that Hoosiers have additional access to local courts as well. The state now has 54 specific, problem-solving courts to handle issues for veterans, drug offenders, people suffering mental health problems and families with children in need of services.
But he said the court faces challenges in making its services available to all Hoosiers.
One is providing better access for people who struggle with the English language. He said the courts have worked to provide training and translating in Indiana courts but more has to be done.
Dickson's speech to the General Assembly came following two years of changes, caused when three of the court's five members opted to retire. That included Randall Shepard, who left the court after 25 years as its chief justice.
Dickson promised that despite the court having a "new feel," it would continue to embody the things that people had come to respect about the Indiana Supreme Court.
He said he continued to be impressed with the way the Judiciary and the General Assembly work together despite being equal and independent branches of government.
"Indiana citizens are indeed fortunate to have a deep tradition of team work in government," Dickson said. "It is really remarkable that our two branches have a deep heritage of working together."
Dickson went on to joke with the legislators by saying, "and if you disagree with the way we interpret a statue you've written, you amend it, as you wish."
Zach Osowski contributed to this report. Tyler Gribbons is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.