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Dickson says consensus among justices on next chief unlikely

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Before Brent Dickson was selected chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court more than two years ago, his fellow justices came one by one before the Judicial Nominating Commission and said he was the man for the job.

As he prepares to step down as chief in coming months, Dickson said he doubts that will happen this time around when the commission chooses his successor.

“My guess is it’s not likely the other justices among themselves would agree who should be the leader,” Dickson said.

Dickson, who chairs the commission that will select his successor, said he doesn’t like to characterize the process as a competition, and any of the justices is capable of leading the court.

“I don’t see it so much as a contest as what I’ve seen so far is my colleagues are willing to serve but not aggressively seeking to win,” he said.

“They are approaching this as an opportunity for service, not something that’s colored with personal aggrandizement.”

Dickson announced in June he will step down as chief justice sometime before Sept. 1, and the commission is scheduled to meet Aug. 6 for public interviews with Justices Steven David, Mark Massa, Robert Rucker and Loretta Rush.

Dickson succeeded Randall Shepard, who presided over the court for the longest period in state history. Dickson, who’s served since 1986, was seen as providing continuity to a court that has added three justices – David, Massa and Rush – in less than four years.

Stepping down as chief but remaining on the court, Dickson said, will allow him to concentrate on writing opinions in his remaining time before he hits the mandatory retirement age of 75 in July 2016.

He said during his tenure, the chief justice’s work has been shared among all the justices.

“I’m frankly blessed to have great people to work with,” he said, noting the justices appointed in recent years “really jumped in the deep end since they came on the court.

“Each has had important responsibilities, and as a group we’ve discussed most of the major decisions that fall to the chief justice,” Dickson said. “It’s not going to come as a surprise or a complete new thing to any one of them.”

Indiana Lawyer readers have their own ideas of who they think will be the next chief justice. In a recent online poll on this topic, David emerged as the frontrunner – grabbing 40 percent of the votes. Rush came in second with 27 percent of the votes followed by Massa’s 22 percent. Rucker, who will be at the mandatory retirement age when his current term ends, received 10 percent of the votes.
 
 

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