The Judicial Conference of Indiana has unveiled a strategic plan to drive improvements to the Indiana justice system. 2020 Forward, a 20-page blueprint urging reform to the justice system over the next decade asserts, “The plan should be used as a guideline for the future of the judiciary and those it serves—the goals are worth pursuing because they chart an approach for greater accountability and enhanced access to justice in Indiana.”
The Judicial Conference Board of Directors, which serves as a policy-making board for the judiciary represents the more than 400 trial and appellate court judges across the state. The Board voted in favor of the plan which concentrates on the following 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.
Strategic Planning Co-Chairs, Grant County Circuit Court Judge Mark Spitzer and LaPorte Superior Court Judge Richard Stalbrink, Jr., presented the white paper and executive summary to the 46-member Judicial Conference of Indiana in September 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,” explained Judge Spitzer. The message from the white paper working group to our elected judicial representatives was clear, according to Judge Stalbrink, who said, “Our committee intends this document to create discussion and to encourage feedback on ways to improve our judicial system.”
In 2008 the Judicial Conference unveiled its first strategic plan, a white paper titled, A New Way Forward. In 2010 The Next Steps to a New Way Forward revealed further progress on the judicial branch’s blueprint for excellence. Since then, concepts outlined in both plans have become reality, 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.