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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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