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Monday, August 25, 2014

Ind. Courts - Papers editoralize on modernizing Indiana's trial courts

The South Bend Tribune today carries an editorial that initially appeared in the NWI Times, headed "Continue the work of modernizing Indiana's courts":

Indiana's new chief justice, Loretta Rush, has a lot on her plate. She not only has to preside over the Indiana Supreme Court, but also to modernize the state's other courts as well.

Indiana is well on its way toward bringing courtsinto the 21st century, with its expansion of what promises to become a state-wide computerized case management system.

That system lets lawyers file legal documents in electronic form, without having to leave their office. It also opens those documents to easier public access as a result.

That helps attorneys withsmall research staffs -- or none at all -- get information they need to better represent their clients.

It also gives the public a better understanding ofhow the legal process works.

That's the same rationale for our belief that Rush and her colleagues in the judicial system must now grapple with the issue of cameras in the courtroom, an area where Indiana has lagged.

Indiana has considered this issue from time to time, but it remains trapped in the past.

The Indiana Supreme Court and Indiana Court of Appeals allow cameras to re-cord and broadcast their proceedings, but not trials in local courts. And the chief justice allowed The Times to partner with the Lake Superior Court to webcast routine proceedings in a single court-room.

There's also the example of when former Lake Juvenile Court Judge Mary Beth Bonaventura allowed MTV to film "Juvies," a reality show aimed at scaring teens into behaving better.

But the process of gaining judicial approval -- or, more likely, rejection -- to film proceedings in lower courts is too long and cumbersome a process.

We understand and share concerns about not disrupting judicial proceedings. The courts' primary mission should be to dispense justice.

But technology has changed significantly in re-cent years, and cameras are less obtrusive now. They are also pervasive throughout society -- except in Indiana's lower courts.

Allowing use of cameras in lower courts would greatly enhance the public's under-standing of howcourts operate. Operating in the public's eye also builds faith in the judicial process, showing judges have no hidden agenda, just the pursuit of justice.

Rush's agenda for her term as chief justice should include re-examining the court's longstanding reluctance to allow cameras in Indiana courtrooms.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 25, 2014 10:55 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts