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Dickson named chief justice as court faces ‘upheaval’

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Brent E. Dickson was selected Indiana chief justice Tuesday after his Supreme Court colleagues unanimously said he embodied the leadership qualities needed during a period of transition.

Dickson had been named acting chief after longtime chief justice Randall T. Shepard retired in March. Shepard was replaced by Mark Massa.

Since then, Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. announced he, too, was resigning, and Dickson said Tuesday that the court’s other long-serving jurist, Robert Rucker, had not decided whether to run for retention in November. Rucker’s office had no immediate comment, but Supreme Court public information officer Kathryn Dolan said Rucker has until mid-July to decide.

After his unanimous selection by the Judicial Nominating Commission, Dickson said he had not considered himself a candidate until he heard from judges and legal professionals around the state who were seeking stability on the court.

“There were a growing number of voices that persuaded me,” Dickson said. “Our employees needed to know civility was going to reign.”

He credited Shepard for nurturing a civil atmosphere on the court and said he wished to continue that tone and court programs Shepard championed and developed during his 25 years as chief.

The commission invited each justice to share views of the qualities needed in a chief justice. Massa, Steven David and Rucker each said Dickson embodied those most needed in a transitional period for the court that some called unprecedented.

Dickson will face mandatory retirement when he turns 75 in July 2016, before his five-year term as chief expires. He said he has made no decision whether he will retire before he reaches mandatory retirement age.

“It’s very well-deserved and not something that I would think of as a gold watch or a  lifetime achievement award,” Massa said in recommending Dickson, who he called a consensus builder and thought leader. “Justice Dickson would be a marvelous choice.”

Massa and others said Dickson also possessed the “small ‘P’ political skills” needed to be the public face of the court and represent the judiciary in the legislature.

“As far as the immediate decision, what I would look for if I were you,” David told the commission, then leaned and stared across the table at Dickson, who chairs the panel. He called Dickson “the right fit.”

Rucker said the chief justice also acts as a chairman of the board of the state’s judiciary. He said the courts face budgetary challenges, assaults on judicial independence and questions of access to justice for those most in need.

Rucker said “with upheaval in our ranks … maybe more upheaval to come,” that Dickson “has been that steady hand, that visionary, if you will, who has done a magnificent job.”

Dickson said that continuity is important amid change. “I’d like to keep things moving as they have been,” he said.  

Dickson’s appointment is effective immediately.

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  1. "Am I bugging you? I don't mean to bug ya." If what I wrote below is too much social philosophy for Indiana attorneys, just take ten this vacay to watch The Lego Movie with kiddies and sing along where appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etzMjoH0rJw

  2. I've got some free speech to share here about who is at work via the cat's paw of the ACLU stamping out Christian observances.... 2 Thessalonians chap 2: "And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last."

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