Rush details status of judiciary in IN Supreme Court’s annual report

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The Indiana Supreme Court bench in the Indiana Statehouse (IL file photo)

On Wednesday afternoon, Chief Justice Loretta Rush settled into a chair in the Indiana Supreme Court’s quiet law library to discuss the health and status of the High Court.

Long story short, she implied, the courts have been busy.

The state’s chief justice gave reporters a scoop on the status of the Indiana Supreme Court during a review of his annual report, calling 2021-22 a “rebound” year.

Indiana’s court system has faced many changes and challenges, she said, ranging from the ongoing battle with COVID-19 and mental health issues permeating the criminal justice system to the judge’s retirement. longtime Steven David and the rise of his successor, Justice Derek Molter.

The 65-page annual report, released on Friday, highlights significant High Court data, milestones and projects for the financial year ending June 30, 2022.

During this year, the judges received 634 cases, heard 37 pleadings and delivered 56 majority opinions out of a total of 81 opinions. Each judge wrote an almost equal number of opinions – nine each for Rush, David and Judges Mark Massa and Christopher Goff and eight for Judge Geoffrey Slaughter – in addition to 12 opinions per curiam.

Following significant drops in case filings following the pandemic, Rush said Indiana courts are starting to see more normal inflow as the new year approaches.

The Chief Justice noted that due to the lack of jury trials during the pandemic, many criminal cases have not reached the High Court. These cases typically make up a significant number of the court’s caseload, she said.

The 634 cases received in the last fiscal year represent a decrease from the 724 cases received in fiscal year 2020-2021 and 913 cases in 2019-2020. In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, the court received 286 criminal cases, compared to 363 and 481 in the previous two fiscal years.

But, Rush added, “I see the numbers going up.”

Although the court’s workload has decreased, the Chief Justice said the administrative arm of the judiciary has been strengthened to help keep the courts operational.

Another interesting point, Rush noted, was the increase in judicial discipline cases. The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission received 609 complaints of judicial misconduct in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.

In 51 cases, the JQC asked judges to respond to allegations or conduct formal inquiries or inquiries, up from 38 in the previous fiscal year.

Rush said the issue of judicial discipline is about more than the obvious.

“Judges tell me that people are angry with institutions,” she said. “But you’re also looking at welfare issues with judges trying to get out of backlogs.”

Bar pass rates reached 72% for the 2020-2021 fiscal year, which included the open book bar exam administered in August 2020. In the most recent fiscal year – which included the first administration by the ‘Indiana Uniform Bar Examination in July 2021 – pass rate was 65%.

The Chief Justice said she was still concerned about pass rates at the bar despite the spike.

With the loss of two Indiana law schools in recent years — Valparaiso Law School and Indiana Tech Law School — Rush said there are concerns about graduate retention in Indiana.

However, the chief justice said she doesn’t see much of an impact on the bar pass rate in Indiana after the introduction of the Uniform Bar Examination.

“As a court, we’re now talking about ways to look at five, 10 years down the road with lawyer shortages, and bar pass rates are certainly part of that,” she said. “It’s a balance. You want to make sure you have a competent bar and you want to make sure you have (enough) people capable of representing litigants.

Other notable findings from the annual report include:

  • More than 8 million documents were filed electronically statewide in the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
  • Over 9 million users have viewed mycase.in.gov, with 52.8 million total page views.
  • Created the Lawyer Dashboard on mycase.in.gov.
  • Creation of a Commission working group on equity, access and evictions.
  • Over 60,000 requests for help handled by Office of Court Technology.
  • Nearly 32,000 hours of live-streamed trial court hearings.
  • Over 23,000 children served by CASA advocates.
  • Five vacancies at the court of first instance and two at the court of appeal were filled by selection on merit.
  • More than 1,200 hours of training provided to judicial officers and players in the judicial system.

The full report is available online.

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