By Ashley Shuler
The first female chief justice in Indiana’s history, Loretta Rush, delivered the 2015 State of the Judiciary address Wednesday, focusing on modernizing court operations with a new cross-county filing system.
Rush rounded out last year’s successes and outlined her initiatives for the upcoming year, including a statewide electronic filing system, the development of a business court specialty model, and the launch of a pilot program to improve the way pre-trial release decisions are made.
The courts are moving to electronic filing to “share information in a timely and cost effective way,” Rush said in her speech.
The state judicial branch operates on less than 1 percent of the total state budget, and Rush said she thinks “pennies of additional investment now will reap dollars of savings in future records and management costs.”
“We are fully committed to fiscal responsibility with taxpayer dollars,” Rush said. “A state investment in court technology, including electronic filling, offers us the best option for improving our courts while conserving our limited financial resources.”
The court has already moved forward electronically, expanding its electronic case management system to 217 courts in 51 counties in 2014. The electronic system represents nearly 60 percent of the 1.5 million new cases filed in Indiana each year.
In order to improve justice for businesses, the court is looking to develop a business court model focused on complex commercial litigation.
“Our goal in this endeavor, along with the introduction of electronic filing, is to promote an attractive, predictable and consistent climate for doing business in Indiana,” Rush said.
Starting this year, the court has authorized pilot programs to improve the way courts make pre-trial release decisions.
These new practices — according to Rush — will yield benefits such as significant taxpayer savings for jail operations, an improvement in arrestee appearance rates at trial, and minimization of wealth-based disparities in pre-trial releases.
Over the course of last year, the court advanced former Chief Justice Brent Dickson’s 2014 State of the Judiciary vision of providing legal services to the poor by adopting a rule that required all attorneys to report to their pro-bono — volunteer — legal services.
In December, Justice Robert Rucker helped provide justice to litigants with limited English proficiency by swearing in 19 new court interpreters, including the first American Sign Language interpreter, bringing the state’s total to 107.
“Your Indiana judiciary is strong,” Rush said. “And over the next year we will grow stronger still, taking on new initiatives to stay modern and responsive as we strive to fulfill the promise of justice in Indiana.”
Ashley Shuler is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.