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Boone Circuit Judge Steven David to succeed retiring Justice Theodore R. Boehm

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Judge Steven H. David said he would have been content staying in his job as Boone Circuit judge for the rest of his legal career.

But he took a chance, overcoming an initial doubt that he should apply for an Indiana Supreme Court opening and ultimately rising to the top of 34 attorneys and judges to become the state’s 106th justice. He replaces retiring Justice Theodore R. Boehm.
 

David David

Just as he’d once dreamed of being the first in his family to go to college, enroll in law school, and embrace a 25-year military career, the 15-year trial judge has once again achieved his dream that stems from his life goal of giving back through public service.

“I feel like I’ve won the Steve David professional lottery and I don’t have to give the money back,” he said about a week after hearing the news, stepping away from the annual judicial conference in Indianapolis to talk about his experience. “Everything in my life is about public service, and this is not something that I planned on doing but something that just came along. The lesson learned is it’s OK to dream. Hard work can pay off.”



Gov. Mitch Daniels announced his decision Sept. 17, selecting Judge David from a field of finalists that also included Marion Superior Judge Robyn Moberly and Indianapolis appellate attorney Karl Mulvaney. The governor said Judge David stood out for his distinguished years on the trial bench, his past experience as corporate counsel, and his longtime military legal career.

Following Justice Boehm’s retirement announcement in May, Judge David was one of the initial 34 applicants for the spot. The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission in July chose him as one of nine semi-finalists who’d return for second interviews before it narrowed the field to the final three. Click here to read Judge David's application.


Mitch Daniels Daniels

The governor said that from Judge David, he heard “the clearest expression of commitment to proper restraint in jurisprudence and deep respect for the boundaries of judicial decision-making. He will be a judge who interprets, rather than invents our laws.”

Paving the way to justice

A 1982 graduate of Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, Judge David started on the Boone Circuit bench in 1995. Before taking the bench, he began his legal career as an associate working at Richard Eynon’s law firm in Columbus where he’d been clerking for two years during law school. He handled primarily personal injury and general law during his time there before moving on to practice family law and civil litigation at the Columbus law firm that became Cline King King & David. He returned to practice with Eynon for almost two years before becoming corporate counsel in 1988 for Mayflower Transit in Carmel.

That took him away from Bartholomew County where he’d hoped to one day became a judge. Instead, he settled in Boone County, where he would ultimately serve on the bench.

Elected in 1994 and taking the bench in January 1995, he’s presided over all types of civil, criminal, and juvenile matters. He also served as special judge by Supreme Court appointment, and hearing officer or special master in attorney and judicial misconduct cases. Some of his more noteworthy cases through the years have been his special judging on the Zolo Azania death penalty case in 2005 and the capital case of Mark Lichtenberger in 1999, which involved the execution-style shooting of a state trooper and led to a life without parole plus 20-year sentence.

Most recently Judge David presided over the ongoing disciplinary case against Delaware County Prosecutor Mark McKinney – a matter that he’ll likely have to recuse himself on once it reaches the Supreme Court for a decision about potential sanctions. As juvenile judge in the county, Judge David also has been a vocal advocate for families and on juvenile law, and he’s proud that through the years he’s never been overturned on appeal in a parental-rights termination matter.

He’s testified through the years about those issues, as well as speaking about other general legal matters and developing the Boone County Continuing Legal Education program.

But on top of that distinguished career in private practice, the corporate world, and as a trial judge, what made Judge David an even more fascinating choice was his distinguished military and related legal career. The son of a retired U.S. Air Force man, Judge David spent his early childhood on bases in the Azores near Portugal and in Oklahoma and Maryland before his dad retired and the family settled in Bartholomew County. That experience with military service led him to join the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps in 1982 soon after his law school graduation.

He remained in the Army Reserves and moved up the ranks to get special top secret clearance, receiving multiple military awards, and serving in various roles in active duty through the years. Judge David has helped reform the treatment of detainees in Iraq and served as chief defense counsel for Guantanamo Bay detainees, as well as served as military judge and legal advocate.

After a long and distinguished military career, Judge David retired from his service Sept. 1, which paved the way for his new role on the state Supreme Court.

“Everything I’ve done has helped prepare me for the next chapter of my life,” the judge said. “I look forward to working with the absolute best Supreme Court in the United States, the absolute best Court of Appeals, and all the trial judges and every lawyer. Most importantly, I look forward to serving the citizens of the state of Indiana.”

In the legal community, court watchers say that Judge David’s varied experience make him someone who differs from the current lineup and will add a new dimension to the state’s highest court. His appointment also shifts the court’s balance in favor of those with past judicial experience, as he, Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, and Justice Robert Rucker all hail from the trial or appellate bench while Justices Brent Dickson and Frank Sullivan came from the practicing lawyer ranks.

Reaction

Sitting in the courtroom where he’ll soon preside, Judge David said he hopes he always remains in awe about being a part of such a professional, civilized, and historic part of the legal system. He said this appointment isn’t about him and he’s trying to remain modest, though he can’t help smiling and chuckling when putting his head on the pillow at night.

Though he hasn’t yet had the chance, Judge David said he plans to spend time researching the history of Indiana Supreme Court justices so that he knows more about those whose portraits hang on the walls of the ornate courtroom in the Statehouse. He still can’t believe that his photo will be placed up there, and he can only hope to follow the leadership that Justice Boehm has displayed.

“I hope some aspect of my past is of benefit to the process,” Judge David said. “This isn’t about me, it’s about the process, about embracing the rule of law.”

Judge David said he hopes to add to the already-strong sense of professionalism and civility displayed by the court but doesn’t know how his presence might shift the dynamic.

“I am going to be the same person I was, and that won’t change,” he said, adding that he hopes the other four justices are ready for that. “It hasn’t set in, and I hope it never does. The moment you are not in awe about this courtroom or this process is the day you should quit.”

Those who know Judge David say he’ll offer a perspective on juveniles and family law that the Supreme Court doesn’t currently have.

Boone County Bar Association president Michael Schultz, an attorney at Parr Richey Obremskey Frandsen & Patterson in Lebanon, said the governor couldn’t have made a better a choice.

“While (we) fully appreciate the loss that will be felt with Judge David leaving the bench here, we also recognize that his experience and his considerable talents will be best utilized by serving not just the citizens of Boone County, but all citizens of our state.”

Judge David is finalizing his work in Boone County before making the transition, which is expected in mid-October. The court’s public information officer Kathryn Dolan said that means the court will see an 18-day gap where there are only four justices because Justice Boehm steps down Sept. 30, the day of his retirement ceremony. An investiture ceremony for Judge David is planned for Oct. 18 and that ceremony will be webcast live online; previous investitures are also archived online. The governor is responsible for selecting someone to succeed Judge David on the trial bench and complete the term that runs through 2012.•
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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