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Editorial: Next choice for Indiana Supreme Court must be a woman

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Indiana Lawyer Editorial

“I have no doubt what the future looks like. The only question is, when will that future roll around?”

Well, it’s taken 11 years for that future to roll around.

The above words were spoken by Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard for a news story not long after Justice Robert Rucker was named to the court in 1999. Justice Shepard was expressing his confidence in the fact that the next choice for a justice on the high court here would be a woman.

We mean in no way to disparage the gentlemen who make up our Indiana Supreme Court, but if one looks at the historical makeup of the court strictly from a diversity standpoint, it’s not an attractive picture by the numbers: one woman, two African-Americans, 102 white men.

So if since May 25 you’ve spent more than 30 seconds talking with a woman lawyer who practices in Indiana, you’ve doubtless heard something along these lines: “How can we be one of only two states in the nation without a woman on our Supreme Court?”

That date, of course, is when Justice Ted Boehm announced that he will retire from the court later this year.

We truly hate to see him go, but his departure makes room for some gender diversity on our high court.

It wasn’t always so male.

The only woman and first African-American on the Supreme Court was Myra Selby, who was a justice from 1995 to 1999 before returning to private practice. The vacancy formed when she left was filled with Justice Rucker, who was elevated from the Indiana Court of Appeals.

At that time, women’s groups called for the expansion of the court to allow for more diversity, but to no avail. Indiana’s constitution allows for up to eight justices, but an expansion is an expensive proposition in any economic climate, and our state was in much better financial shape in 1999 than it is now.

Still, we take heart in what Chief Justice Shepard said 11 years ago on the subject of a woman becoming a member of the court: “It does matter that you have people from different walks of life, and both men and women. You get a healthy mix of experiences and ideas when the group isn’t all cut out of the same cloth.”

Amen to that.

In the same aforementioned news story, Indianapolis lawyer and Julian Center Executive Director Ann DeLaney was among those calling for an expansion of the court. She pointed out then that it could be years before any of the justices decided to retire.

She ended up being right, of course, but we also would remind readers of what she said on the subject then:

“Having an all-male court sends the wrong message.”

Amen to that, too.

Our research on the subject led us to story from a couple of years ago when some of our justices were facing a retention vote. Former justice Selby told us then: “… I’m a firm believer that our court is one of the most important aspects of our society, and it ought to reflect that society in order to remain vibrant and be a part of that fabric of what we’re all about. Having broken the barrier (of having a woman on the court) doesn’t mean we should rest. It’s still something that deserves our attention and focus.”

It is our sincere hope that the future Chief Justice Shepard looked to 11 years ago will soon be decidedly more female.•

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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