EDITORIAL: A judicial use of government statistics

2013-11-11T00:00:00Z EDITORIAL: A judicial use of government statistics nwitimes.com
November 11, 2013 12:00 am  • 

In an era where the nation seems to be governed by emotion and ideology and emotion, it's good to look at the Indiana judiciary.

Statistics about court operations in fiscal 2012 -- July 1, 2011, through June 30, 2012 -- were released last week, providing a way to measure how the state's courts are performing.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • There were 307,612 cases statewide including an individual not represented by an attorney.
  • There were 33,876 mortgage foreclosures filed.
  • 235 murder cases were filed.
  • The Supreme Court was asked to review 1,012 cases.
  • 11,325 Child in Need of Services cases were filed.
  • 11,564 trial court cases involved the use of an interpreter.
  • 5,900 cases were referred to alternative dispute resolution.
  • Cities, towns, townships, counties and the state spent $386 million to operate the courts.
  • Filing fees, court costs, user fees and fines generated $205 million in revenue.

The data prompted Chief Justice Brent Dickson, a Hobart native, to note the rarity of cases decided by a jury verdict.

There were 1.6 million Indiana court cases filed last year, but only 1,338 were decided by a jury.

"Jury trials are where the skills of lawyers are honed, developed and carried on," Dickson said.

That's a serious concern. Jury trials are expensive, and plea agreements save time and money, but jury trials are the hallmark of the American judicial system. One of the founding principles of this nation is the right to a trial by a jury of the accused's peers, something many countries don't allow.

Dickson's observation is worth further pondering in the legal community.

Meanwhile, we must point out this esoteric discussion is facilitated because Indiana not only gathers data on court cases each year but also analyzes the data so the efficiency of individual judges and the system can be evaluated effectively.

That's how a government should be run. Let facts be facts, and base decisions on those facts.

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