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Chief justice praises change, seeks more

– Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson used his first State of the Judiciary speech Wednesday to urge that legislators reform the criminal code and provide more resources for technological advances in the courts.

He started by talking about the mountain of change the court has experienced in the last few years. After a decade of stability on the Indiana Supreme Court, three of its five justices have joined the court since 2010, and Dickson became chief justice in May.

Dickson highlighted the many ways the judiciary and General Assembly have worked together while being independent branches of government, including his work on the Criminal Code Evaluation Commission over the summer.

He said he supports the legislation that came out of that work.

“I greatly admire its focus on evidence-based practices that can make our criminal justice system more effective in protecting public safety, reducing repeat criminal activity, enabling offender reformation, and at the same time, substantially reducing incarcerations costs,” Dickson said.

He specifically supports part of the bill that would shift the responsibility for probation officer salaries from counties to the state.

Dickson also recognized Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck and his re-entry court for receiving national recognition. Surbeck, who received a standing ovation, was chosen from among 40,000 U.S. trial judges to receive the William Rehnquist Award for judicial excellence.

Dickson finished his speech by talking about Odyssey, the coordinated case management system that is slowly being added by individual counties. The public can use the system to access cases for free.

It has been funded by user fees on court cases, but legislative leaders have slashed those fees in recent years as some have been frustrated by the progress.

“The court intends to do everything we can to bring our Odyssey system as soon as possible to every county that wants it,” Dickson said. “But this requires more resources. The court really needs help from the General Assembly this session to upgrade the necessary filing fee revenue stream. We present this to you as one of our must urgent priorities.”