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Editor's Perspective: Another crack in the glass ceiling

Kelly Lucas
August 27, 2014
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EidtPerspLucas-sigI’d like to make a suggestion to Indiana lawmakers when they return for the 2015 legislative session. I am not telling you how to do your jobs, but this suggestion falls under the guise of editing, so I feel I’m within my bounds.

If those who write the laws feel an itch again this year to propose amendments to the Indiana Constitution, you may want to take a look at Article 7. In it, the chief justice of the state of Indiana is repeatedly referred to as “he.” On Aug. 18 at 1:20 p.m., that became inaccurate. As we all know, “he” is now a “she.”

As long as you’re at it, and in the spirit of being thorough, a more extensive review may be in order. It appears that most state office holders are referenced as male throughout the document. The lieutenant governor, for example, is also referenced as “he” in the Indiana Constitution. That one has been erroneous for a while.

I am not faulting the framers of the constitution for their pronoun selection. When Indiana’s second constitution was written in 1851, women in this country were still decades away from having the right to vote. When Article 7 was last amended in 1970, there had not yet been a woman on the Indiana Supreme Court, so the chances were slim that a female chief justice was in the offing.

But things are different today.

Not only does the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court happen to be female, but so is the chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals, Judge Nancy Vaidik. Our state’s tax court is presided over by Judge Martha Wentworth. At the federal level, Judge Robyn Moberly was appointed in July as chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana.

Now, to those of you preparing to fire off a firmly worded email suggesting that I am “failing to see the forest for the trees,” please know that I realize the appointment of these very qualified women to top leadership positions does not mean that gender diversity in the legal profession or, specifically, the judiciary has been achieved. Clearly, work remains.

But the Indiana Lawyer devotes time and ink to reporting on shortcomings that exist concerning diversity and other areas of law, and I am a firm believer that we must report both sides of a story. We will shine a light on problems we see, but we will also blow the trumpet to celebrate success.

Chief Justice Loretta Rush remarked shortly after her selection that she “looks forward to the day when it is unremarkable” that a woman would be selected to lead the court. Throughout this process, she has made it clear that her motivation is to help keep the judiciary reflective of the diverse citizenry it serves. “The strength of our Supreme Court is based on the collective strength and wisdom of our five justices,” Rush said during her swearing-in ceremony, “and I am still just one vote.”

Gov. Mike Pence said that Rush was unanimously selected for this role because she was the best choice to lead the Supreme Court. The Judicial Nominating Commission had other very qualified candidates in Justices Steven David, Mark Massa and Robert Rucker, but they chose Rush because they agreed that she was the best person for the job today.

Most “firsts” seem remarkable – they require quashing stereotypes and clearing hurdles – and this one certainly earned a spot in the history books. With the selection of Loretta Rush as chief justice, another glass ceiling has been broken in Indiana. Now, as she said at the conclusion of her swearing-in ceremony, it is time to “get back to work.”•

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  1. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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