ILNews

COA Judge John T. Sharpnack retires

Michael W. Hoskins
January 1, 2008
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After 17 years on the appellate bench, Judge John T. Sharpnack is retiring today from the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Though he's stepping down as a full-time jurist, Judge Sharpnack plans to continue his work as a senior judge starting Monday; he reaches the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 75 May 7.

A 3 p.m. retirement ceremony was planned to mark his departure from the court, with Chief Judge John Baker presiding. Judge Sharpnack's family, colleagues, former law clerks, and special guests were expected to attend. A webcast of the ceremony can be viewed online.

During his tenure, Judge Sharpnack authored a total 2,124 opinions, handing down four published opinions in the past week and circulating another 10 for votes that will be handed down after he becomes a senior judge, according to a court spokeswoman. He's also been on panels of other decisions issued this week, including today's ruling on Bonner v. Daniels that involved the judiciary's review of public school financing.

A Columbus, Ind., native, Judge Sharpnack has been an attorney for more than four decades after graduating from the University of Cincinnati's College of Law in 1960. He's worked as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division in Washington, D.C., and also was a partner at his hometown firm his grandfather founded, Sharpnack Bigley David & Rumple.

He was appointed to the appellate court's fifth district in January 1991 by then-Gov. Evan Bayh and has been retained twice since then. His judicial colleagues recalled one of his most recognized accomplishments on the bench was the nine years he'd served as chief judge between Sept. 9, 1992, and Dec. 31, 2001. During that time, some of his accomplishments include the court's creation of a motions panel to rule on motions made prior to a case being fully briefed, initiating a rotating panel system for deciding cases, and starting the court's senior judge program - of which he'll now be taking advantage.

With his departure, Judge Elaine B. Brown from Dubois Superior Court will succeed Judge Sharpnack on the appellate bench. The governor chose her for the spot in February from finalists selected earlier in the year by the Judicial Nominating Commission; 15 had originally applied.

This marks the second time in a year the appellate court has welcomed a new judge; last August, Judge Cale Bradford from Marion Superior Court succeeded Judge Patrick D. Sullivan, who reached the mandatory retirement age and has taken senior judge status.
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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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