The Indiana Supreme Court has established a new commission to promote access to justice and increase public trust and confidence in the judicial system.
The 21-member Commission on Equity and Access in the Court System includes representatives from all three branches of government, along with educators, prosecutors, public defenders and other professionals.
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush has directed the commission to find ways to continue improving equal access to justice following the successful implementation of pretrial and bail reform, additional problem-solving courts, and the creation of new pathways to the legal profession for underrepresented college graduates.
She said the next steps include comprehensively reviewing state court systems, policies and practices; identifying strengths and improvement areas leading toward more equal access to justice; and establishing workgroups to craft recommendations addressing issues in the legal system.
The commission is authorized to develop pilot projects for addressing immediate, critical issues, and must submit a written report with findings and recommendations to the five-member Supreme Court by Dec. 31, 2022.
"There is still much to achieve to ensure every Hoosier knows justice is within reach for them. Our state court system can and must do better," Rush said.
"This matters because the rule of law in an independent court system depends on the faith placed in it by the people it serves. The judicial branch does not make or enforce laws; we have neither armies nor coffers. What we have instead is something fragile, yet vital — the people’s trust that the judicial branch, and we who serve in it, are fair and impartial arbiters of disputes; that a courtroom is a place where you will be judged only by the merits of your cause and through an equal application of the law."
"In other words, the judicial branch has the ethereal notion of 'justice' — an ideal more powerful than militaries or monies, but that carries practical force only when people believe it fairly exists. And where public trust and confidence in Indiana’s courts have waned or they are not fully shared by all, this court is committed to creating and restoring them," Rush said.
The commission will be led by Supreme Court Justice Steven David, with support from Gina Forrest, the Supreme Court's chief diversity officer.
Its other members include state Rep. Ragen Hatcher, D-Gary, and Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita, a Munster native.