Former Justice Theodore R. Boehm joins Indy dispute resolution firm

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Aside from writing precedent-setting decisions and rules that govern the entire Hoosier legal community, now-retired Indiana Supreme Court Justice Theodore R. Boehm said there’s one significant part of his legacy on the state’s highest court that is mostly overlooked.

That is an atomic wristwatch he bought several years ago; it communicates every night with the Naval Observatory in Ft. Collins, Colo., to be accurate within one-tenth of a second. With a court tradition dictating that the second-newest justice lines up his four colleagues to enter the Supreme Court courtroom at precisely 9 a.m., having this watch and its precision accuracy has had a significant and practical impact on the court’s functioning.

theodore boehm Justice Theodore R. Boehm receives a standing ovation from those attending a ceremony Sept. 30 to say goodbye to the retiring jurist. (Photo courtesy of Jim Barnett)

As he put it during his recent retirement ceremony, he joked that this watch was his “only significant contribution to the judiciary.”

“Until now, I have not claimed public credit for this achievement, accomplished over considerable tripping, stumbling, and dithering by those behind me,” the 72-year old justice said at the ceremony Sept. 30. “In the future, Justice (Robert) Rucker will be the herder of the gaggle of felines, and as a token of my respect and sympathy, I am pleased to present him with this genuine used atomic watch.”

Marking the end of a 14-year career as one of the state’s top jurists, Justice Boehm told that story after many of his colleagues from the judicial and attorney ranks made their own remarks and tributes about his legal career. Well-wishers gathered inside the ornate third-floor Supreme Court courtroom at the Statehouse, celebrating the judicial career of a man who’s been an Indiana attorney since 1964 and had served on the high court bench since 1996.

Though his atomic watch story and other remarks brought laughs from those attending, the backdrop to the event was Justice Boehm’s accomplished career on the court and his time in the legal community. As a justice, he’d authored about 480 majority opinions and 80 dissents, and his judicial tenure included the creation of the oral argument webcasting, writing new appellate rules, leadership on a jury pool project, and a 2000 constitutional amendment that changed the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to a mostly discretionary role.

Those in the legal community say that Justice Boehm’s legacy will be long-remembered and that he’s served on the court in a time when the administrative side has grown significantly, and he’s allowed the overall justice system to become more efficient. At the same time, both judges and lawyers and other public officials point to his non-legal involvement that has made Indiana a better place.

“Ted Boehm has found appropriate ways to be of this community and of this entire state community,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said. “We’re so fortunate that he came our way. That a person of this degree of talent was willing to lend and invest in year after year, chapter after chapter, in diversity of ways to the like we haven’t seen. He’s been a major part in the establishment of a national reputation that Indiana has as fine a supreme court as the country knows. He leaves to his successor and to his colleagues a very, very high target in order to maintain that stellar reputation.”

Indianapolis Bar Association president Christine Hickey thanked Justice Boehm for his service on the court and his leadership in the local bar association, legal community and larger civic roles. She announced the IBA is commissioning a biography to preserve his judicial legacy for future generations.

Former law clerk Cynthia Bauerly, who in June 2008 became the commissioner of the Federal Election Commission in Washington, D.C., represented those who’ve clerked for Justice Boehm through the years. She talked about his writing being clear and concise and “full of more baseball analogies than one might expect,” and that he was someone who clearly understands the law and its implications.

“Justice Boehm makes the work of judging look easy,” she said. “Certainly there are arguments to construct and caselaw to explain and cite into context, but at the end of the day even the hard cases looked easy for him. I think it was because he was confident of his conclusion, whether expected or not, popular or not, whether subject to political or press criticism. In each case, whether majority opinion or dissent, with humility, humanity, and sometimes humor, he’s explained why the law in his view required that result.”

In his goodbye speech, Justice Boehm noted that he’d be taking on the role of arbitrator, mediator, and “perhaps a few other roles” at Van Winkle Baten Rimstidt Dispute Resolution, an Indianapolis-based firm that was founded in 1995 and describes itself as the state’s first and oldest ADR-devoted firm.

Justice Boehm also said he didn’t plan to vanish from the public arena and that his many years in state government have given him some perspective of issues that need addressing. He criticized the many duplicative government services noted in the Kernan-Shepard report on local government reforms. He also criticized the current judicial selection slating system in Marion County that he described as “a scheme that purports to place the selection in the hands of voters but in practical effect leaves it under the control of a few party officials.”

“There are several pernicious results, not the least of which is the judges become a vehicle for raising funds for political parties,” Justice Boehm said. “Despite widespread derision, even ridicule of this system, few in government have the will to challenge it.”

Before concluding the ceremony for a reception, Justice Boehm made a point to answer the age-old question about what judges and justices wear beneath the black robes. He unzipped the robe and to applause and laughter, revealed his attire underneath: an Indiana Pacers jersey of No. 33 player Danny Granger that he wore over an Indianapolis Colts jersey of No. 18 quarterback Peyton Manning.•


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues