Kathryn Dolan, Chief Public Information Officer | Office of Communication, Education & Outreach
When you reach a summit, it’s only natural to declare victory, but some journeys demand looking for an even higher peak. Exploring what Indiana’s court system can be—how it can best serve the community and resolve disputes fairly and efficiently—means looking for the next mountain to climb. This is exactly what the Supreme Court has charged the Innovation Initiative to do.
The Court established the Initiative in 2019, as part of its Office of Judicial Administration, to develop projects aimed at making Indiana’s justice system more efficient, less expensive, and easier to navigate while continuing to ensure justice is fairly administered and the rights of all litigants are protected.
The Initiative has three subcommittees focusing on technology, family law, and civil litigation. Two of the subcommittees have delivered formal reports to the Indiana Supreme Court suggesting dozens of ways to improve Indiana’s court system. The third subcommittee is working to formalize its ideas.
Family Law & Technology Reports
The Family Law Taskforce and the Technology Working Group attracted help from nearly 40 people—attorneys, judges, family law practitioners, technology specialists, educators, psychologists, and business and law professors. The volunteers contributed countless hours researching respected best practices and discussing potential court improvements.
Their ideas were submitted to the Indiana Supreme Court through two reports: the Family Law Taskforce Report and the Technology Working Group Report. The twenty-eight recommendations in these reports range from developing satisfaction surveys to the creation of online dispute resolution programs. The five Justices greatly appreciate the efforts and asked for the reports to be made public while the Initiative moves forward to begin the next phase.
Chief Innovation Officer Robert Rath explains, “We are now focusing our efforts on considering how and which ideas can be realized. Several pilot projects are already underway, for example ODR. Other ideas will require research, feasibility studies, and further Court approval before implementation could begin.”
Initial ideas include:
- triage family law cases to match the level of services and case management to families’ needs
- partnering with the Coalition for Court Access to update and expand resources for self-represented litigants at indianalegalhelp.org
- providing trauma-informed training for family and juvenile judges
- implementing online dispute resolution for small claims and family law cases
- creating an online dashboard allowing attorneys and parties easier access to view documents in their cases
The Civil Litigation Taskforce—created in 2021—includes attorneys and judges from around the state and is chaired by Attorney Steven Badger. It’s charged with focusing on improving civil case procedures and management, with emphasis on service of process, discovery, alternative dispute resolution, case management, and self-represented litigants. The Taskforce has met and is considering ideas before its final report is due to the Supreme Court by year’s end.