By the Office of Communication, Education & Outreach
Chief Justice Rush delivered the 2021 State of the Judiciary address by video for the first time in history on April 7, 2021. Typically, the Chief Justice provides the formal update on the work of the judicial branch in person to the Governor and Indiana General Assembly.
The address focused on Indiana courts revolutionizing operations and crafting new ways to resolve disputes with safety, efficiency, and accessibility. Judicial branch stakeholders also made appearances, discussing court technology, problem-solving courts, juvenile justice, pretrial reform, equity, judicial branch independence, and strategically moving the judiciary forward.
The pandemic brought safety precautions and made video-conferences second nature. While Supreme Court oral arguments have been streaming for over a decade, trial courts welcomed live webcams for the first time in May 2020. The Chief Justice highlighted the adaptability of judges and court staff and the creative solutions which kept operations running:
During the pandemic, many court customers didn’t just have the uncertainty of criminal matters in front of them. At the same time, they were dealing with job insecurity and keeping their families safe. Chief Justice Rush pointed to two particular areas that worked toward reducing that compounded stress: juvenile detention alternatives and pretrial reform.
Pretrial reform reduces incarcerated populations using evidence-based practices to detain only those adults who truly need to be for the sake of public safety and management of county jail populations. Juvenile detention alternatives move low-risk youth from secure detention into community-based programs for the same goal, to improve public safety and reduce the over-reliance on secure detention and out-of-home placements.
Despite the challenging unpredictability faced by many Hoosiers, celebration made numerous appearances throughout the year, and Chief Justice Rush and other justice stakeholders joined in. From bar admission ceremonies and adoptions to problem-solving court graduations and expungements, courts prevailed in connecting with others.
Another 2020 highlight was the adoption of a 10-year strategic plan, which brings both vision and action to the pursuit of justice—and part of which addresses racial equity and access to justice. The plan galvanizes our branch to its core values to improve our system of justice under the rule of law while protecting liberties through an impartial system. Read more about the strategic plan in a January 2021 Court Times article.
As the Indiana Judiciary revels in the versatility of these remote platforms and virtual courtrooms, we see on the horizon a return to how things used to be done, but those tools that were picked up along the way will still be useful as the judicial branch continues to move forward through the challenges and celebrations.