ILNews

Editorial: New justice brings much to appreciate

Editorial Indiana Lawyer
September 29, 2010
Keywords
Back to TopE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
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.•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  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.

ADVERTISEMENT