Indiana chief justice says court can help economy

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Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard used his final speech to the Legislature on Wednesday to chart how far the state's judicial system has come during his 25 years heading the state's highest court.

Shepard, who announced his retirement in December, delivered his annual State of the Judiciary speech to a crowd of legislators and black-robed judges.

Shepard said the "graciousness" of lawmakers and judges he has worked with over the years "will allow me to leave the stage with full confidence that we will succeed in building Indiana as a safe and prosperous and decent place."

He praised judges around the state for their work in developing special purpose courts such as drug and family courts, and boasted about the state's child advocate program, in which volunteers represent children's interests in court.

Shepard also outlined improvements in court technology, such as an online docket system and a feature that gives women's shelters direct access to the statewide Protective Order Registry so they can better protect victims. He said a new system that sends emails or text messages to victims when a protective order is served on their abusers sent notices to 9,300 victims last year.

"In the cases involving the worst threats, we have more tools than ever for combating domestic violence," he said.

He also said improvements in the state's legal system have helped courts become an aid — or at least not a hindrance — to Indiana's economic development.

Shepard said businesses shy away from some states because of the legal climate, but Indiana isn't one of them. He cited work done by judges and lawyers to simplify rules for juries and evidence, saying legal complexity could be a barrier to new business.

He also said the courts were delivering direct economic assistance to people by using revamped practices designed to make it easier for homeowners to rewrite their mortgages and avoid foreclosure. He said the new practices, which have been deployed in 20 counties that account for 2/3 of the state's foreclosures, increased the chance of a homeowner keeping his or her home by six times.

"Could there be a better cause, a more worthwhile way to 'spend and be spent' in life than working toward greater justice?" he said.

Hundreds of union members protesting right-to-work legislation were kept away from the House chambers during the speech. The group was generally quiet while Shepard spoke, but resumed booing a shortly thereafter.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller issued a statement in which he credited the protesters with showing respect for the state's top judge.

"It has been a privilege for me to serve as an officer of the court during Randy Shepard's watch, and our judicial system has benefited significantly from the innovations he implemented," Zoeller said.


  • Shepard
    Shepard is of middling intellect, typical of Indiana state level politicians, which is what he was. His greatest accomplishment was to add levels of bureaucracy creating additional cost to support the judicial system. What he really put his heart into was campaigning year after year to raise the salaries of judges. Of course, his help in adding layers of law & bureaucracy did help one small sector of the economy -- big law firms.
  • Lets look at the failures also

    We must also note the great failures that hurt Indiana under Mr Shepard.

    The concept of equal treatment in divorce was not addressed. The chief justice rejected appeals from men who felt the need for equal treatment. He also made Indiana a very high child support rate payment for the low earners and very low support rate for the high earners. Shepard's child support guidelines gives the rich a large break over other states while leaving the low income father nothing but the title of deadbeat. Beating fathers is perhaps politically correct, but far from being justice. Review of the support tables clearly shows they are not fit.

    He did not open up records for judges. A complaint against a judge, or one hundred complaints against a judge are still "confidential for the integrity of the courts"! I believe the courts would be better with open and honest records.

    He allows special rules for judges to not actually write decisions, but accept attorney presented decisions to sign. Does anyone other than lazy judges believe that signing a presented order results in fair and honest treatment for the parties? These presented orders have grants not even presented in court! Some lazy judges have even signed the presented settlements from opposing attorneys!

    Shepard did nothing to stop prosecutors from being able to select the judges for cases. When a prosecutor wants to illegally submit "evidence" he can select and present in front of a judge he knows will not be fair and honest. Assignments should be random or at the selection of the defending party.

    Lets us remember, judges are a combination of lawyer and politician....they often lack honesty, fairness, and all concepts of justice. I do not accept the claims of achievement for Mr. Shepard......


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  1. to mention the rest of Molly's experience- she served as Communications Director for the Indianapolis Department of Public Works and also did communications for the state. She's incredibly qualified for this role and has a real love for Indianapolis and Indiana. Best of luck to her!

  2. Shall we not demand the same scrutiny for law schools, med schools, heaven forbid, business schools, etc.? How many law school grads are servers? How many business start ups fail and how many business grads get low paying jobs because there are so few high paying positions available? Why does our legislature continue to demean public schools and give taxpayer dollars to charters and private schools, ($171 million last year), rather than investing in our community schools? We are on a course of disaster regarding our public school attitudes unless we change our thinking in a short time.

  3. I agree with the other reader's comment about the chunky tomato soup. I found myself wanting a breadstick to dip into it. It tasted more like a marinara sauce; I couldn't eat it as a soup. In general, I liked the place... but doubt that I'll frequent it once the novelty wears off.

  4. The Indiana toll road used to have some of the cleanest bathrooms you could find on the road. After the lease they went downhill quickly. While not the grossest you'll see, they hover a bit below average. Am not sure if this is indicative of the entire deal or merely a portion of it. But the goals of anyone taking over the lease will always be at odds. The fewer repairs they make, the more money they earn since they have a virtual monopoly on travel from Cleveland to Chicago. So they only comply to satisfy the rules. It's hard to hand public works over to private enterprise. The incentives are misaligned. In true competition, you'd have multiple roads, each build by different companies motivated to make theirs more attractive. Working to attract customers is very different than working to maximize profit on people who have no choice but to choose your road. Of course, we all know two roads would be even more ridiculous.

  5. The State is in a perfect position. The consortium overpaid for leasing the toll road. Good for the State. The money they paid is being used across the State to upgrade roads and bridges and employ people at at time most of the country is scrambling to fund basic repairs. Good for the State. Indiana taxpayers are no longer subsidizing the toll roads to the tune of millions a year as we had for the last 20 years because the legislature did not have the guts to raise tolls. Good for the State. If the consortium fails, they either find another operator, acceptable to the State, to buy them out or the road gets turned back over to the State and we keep the Billions. Good for the State. Pat Bauer is no longer the Majority or Minority Leader of the House. Good for the State. Anyway you look at this, the State received billions of dollars for an assett the taxpayers were subsidizing, the State does not have to pay to maintain the road for 70 years. I am having trouble seeing the downside.