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Editorial: New justice brings much to appreciate

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
September 29, 2010
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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

Congratulations to Indiana’s 106th justice, the Honorable Steven David of the Boone Circuit Court.

Judge David brings to the bench a broad diversity of experience that will be a tremendous asset to the Indiana Supreme Court, and thereby to us all. The son of a career Air Force man, Judge David recently retired from his own military career, having served in the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps. During his military service, he helped reform the treatment of detainees in Iraq and served as chief defense counsel for Guantanamo Bay detainees.

But there’s more to appreciate about soon-to-be Justice David: He has served as special judge by Supreme Court appointment, and hearing officer or special master in attorney and judicial misconduct cases. And as juvenile judge in Boone County, Judge David also has been a vocal advocate for families and on juvenile law. He’s justifiably proud that he’s never been overturned on appeal in a parental-rights termination case.

But to end our discussion of his appointment to the high court here would overlook the elephant in the room: Half of the state of Indiana is still waiting for another justice who looks like them.

Women make up half of the bar, half of the state, half of the nation, half of the world, and yet Indiana remains one of two states in the union without a woman on its court of last resort.

We will repeat here the words we used in our July 7-20 editorial – words from our archives from Supreme Court Justice Randall T. Shepard: “I have no doubt what the future looks like. The only question is, when will that future roll around?” The chief justice pondered that in a news story that ran in our newspaper shortly after Justice Robert Rucker was named to the high court in 1999.

All the women of the state of Indiana, not just the women lawyers and judges, would like to know the answer to that question.

We were intrigued by the observation of Kathy L. Osborn, a partner at Baker & Daniels in Indianapolis, who believes one factor working against women being appointed to the high court is the fact there has never been a woman lawyer on the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission and Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission.

The bar in Indiana’s district 2 will vote next month on a vacancy that opens at year’s end, when LewisWagner partner John Trimble’s term ends Dec. 31. Five central Indiana lawyers are in the running.

Osborn and Barnes & Thornburg partner Jan Carroll are two of the five candidates.

Women have served on the commission since it was created in 1970, but all were non-attorneys appointed by the governor. The current female member, Evansville resident Christine Keck, is director of strategy and business development for renewable energy at Energy Systems Group in Newburgh. Her term also expires in December.

“The disappointing fact that Indiana only ever has had one female Supreme Court justice, and currently has none, is an historical one that goes to the cumulative decisions that have been made over nearly two centuries,” Osborn told our reporter for a news story on Page 3 about the commission election.

She isn’t critical of Judge David’s recent appointment to the high court, but she’s eager to lay the groundwork for the appointment of women to our high court.

“I am interested in serving on the Judicial Nominating Commission in part because I believe the fact that there has never been a female attorney on that commission could be one factor of many that has impacted historical nominating and appointment decisions.”

Perhaps Osborne is onto something.

Regardless, the women of Indiana are still waiting for the future to roll around.•
 

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