This week, the Indiana Supreme Court Justice Loretta H. Rush gave the annual State of the Judiciary Address . Chief Justice Rush’s addressed the Indiana Supreme Court’s achievements in the last year, expanding the court’s technology, improving the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program, and the courts’ impact on Indiana’s drug addiction crisis.
Over the last year, Indiana began the process of creating commercial courts to hear business disputes. The Indiana court system also has also begun the process of making court cases available online.
With an increase of children in Indiana’s welfare system, the General Assembly provided the courts with the necessary support to expand the CASA program. Rush expressed the rising number of drug cases being heard in courts and advocated for rehabilitation rather than incarceration. “We cannot afford to incarcerate or institutionalize our way out of this drug crisis,” she said.
Rush attended Purdue University and Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law. Rush served as a Superior Court 3 judge in Tippecanoe county for 14 years. While in Tippecanoe county, she helped create the county’s Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. She also helped implement a certified juvenile treatment court and initiated a 24 hour assessment center for youth. Rush was appointed to the court in 2012 and became the first female Chief Justice in 2014.
The Supreme Court of Indiana was established in the State Constitution in 1816. The Court’s first significant decisions in the 1820s prohibited slavery and involuntary servitude. The court is comprised of one Chief Justice and four other judges, who are initially nominated by the Governor but accepted or rejected by citizens on the ballot. Associate judges include Brent Dickson, Robert Rucker, Steven H. David, and Mark S. Massa.
In the past, Indiana’s Supreme Court has undergone several changes since the original Constitution. In 1850, the Constitutional Convention changed the rules for the Supreme Court so that citizens could confirm Justice nominations. For every electoral confirmation, judges have one 10 year term. If a judge is rejected in the election, the governor has to choose a new judge from the list created by the Judicial Nominating Commission.
Changes to the Constitution in 1881 established the Supreme Court Commissioners to assist the judges with their increasing caseload. However the establishment of the Court of Appeals of Indiana in 1970 significantly lessened the caseload of the Supreme Court.
From July 2014 to the end of June 2015, Indiana’s Supreme Court Justices received a total of 945 cases, disposed 977 cases, heard 62 oral arguments, and handed down 100 majority opinions.