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Holcomb praises justice pick's 'sharp legal mind'

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goff-all-15col.jpg Wabash Superior Judge Christopher Goff, second from right, poses with the four current Indiana justices and Gov. Eric Holcomb, center, June 12 after Holcomb announced Goff as his pick for the high court. Goff will join the Indiana Supreme Court after almost 12 years as a trial judge. (IL Photo/Olivia Covington)

A rural Indiana judge with more than a decade of experience on a trial court bench has been selected as Indiana’s 110th Supreme Court justice.

Wabash Superior Judge Christopher Goff was announced Monday as Gov. Eric Holcomb’s pick to fill the current vacancy on the high court left by Justice Robert Rucker’s retirement one month ago. Goff will move to the state’s highest court after serving in Wabash County for 12 years, beginning in 2005 when then-Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed him to the trial court bench.

Describing himself as a constitutional originalist and textualist, Goff said his judicial philosophy is rooted in the doctrine of judicial restraint. Though he, at 45, will be the youngest person on the bench by roughly a decade, Holcomb said Goff has a “profound respect for the Constitution and the rights and principles embodied within it.”

“Judges should not only take great care to limit the use of their power to strike down laws,” the governor said, “they should also avoid injecting their own personal views and philosophies into the law. Judge Goff is deeply devoted to the cause of justice, and his sharp legal mind has been honed by years of practical experience.”

Aside from his judicial philosophy, Holcomb said he was drawn to Goff because of his belief in fundamental Hoosier values and his experience interacting with people from various backgrounds. For example, Goff’s immediate family is racially diverse, a fact that will enable him to bring the perspective of minority groups to the court. Such a perspective was physically lost when Rucker, the only black justice, retired.

goff-christopher-judge-mug.jpg Goff


Further, Goff’s life in the rural communities of Huntington and Wabash counties will complement the make-up of the four existing justices, who each have roots in urban and suburban Indiana, Holcomb said. In fact, Goff told a crowd gathered in the governor’s office on June 12 he was riding a tractor when Holcomb called to tell him he had been selected.

The governor further praised Goff for his commitment to programs such as Indiana’s problem-solving courts. Additionally, the judge also touts a record of extensive community involvement, Holcomb said, pointing to his work with the Huntington County Merit Board, including two years as board president, and his establishment of the Huntington County Court Appointed Special Advocate Program.

“Judge Goff, there is no question that Justice Rucker inspired those he served with and the people of Indiana,” Holcomb told the Wabash County judge. “And now you will have your opportunity, as the newest member of the court … to leave your own unique mark and create your own contribution.”

But the decision of selecting Goff as the next Supreme Court justice was not an easy one to make, Holcomb said, noting the quality of the applications submitted by Clark Circuit Judge Vicki Carmichael and Boone Superior Judge Matthew Kincaid. Those two judges were also named as finalists to fill Rucker’s seat, and Holcomb said each of the three candidates he was tasked to choose from were overly qualified to assume a seat on the state’s highest bench.

Goff, surrounded by his family in Holcomb’s office, also praised his fellow finalists, and further went on to say he did not expect to be able to replace retired Justice Rucker, but instead to only succeed him.

As he shook the governor’s hand to publicly accept his new role, Goff shook his head in disbelief that he would soon serve among Indiana’s highest jurists. Asked about his display of emotion, the current Wabash County judge said his humble life and career beginnings never indicated he would one day be asked to join the Indiana Supreme Court.

“My wife and I were married at the Wabash County courthouse in 1993, I began my career in Huntington, had a 1986 Dodge Bullet, $70 and two kids,” Goff said. “So, it’s just beyond words.”

A date for when Goff would join the Supreme Court has not been announced. His robing ceremony will be held a date determined by the high court.

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  • Oops
    I should have included Justice Sullivan in the category of one brave enough to stand up to statist bullies, at least in this instance: SULLIVAN, J., dissents, believing respondent's conduct was speech protected by the First Amendment and so no sanction is permissible. See In re Wilkins, 777 N.E.2d 714 (Ind. 2002) (Sullivan, J., dissenting). Note that Rucker recused on the re-hearing, but it mattered not, since Shepard and Dickson were ready to keep at the lash, with the concurrence of Justice Boehn in the culling of the whipping. I have met Wilkins ... a fine Christian gentleman who was sufficiently chilled by this public flogging.
  • Insider Elitism is strong with this court
    Princess, yes, we can only hope. While the court has been freed from a deep stagnation (and even worse) over the past seven years, there is no doubt that some of the new blood seems to be the same statist caliber as the old blood. (Queue the Who). Once needs only study the deep background of former "justice" Rucker as to the Wilkins appeal to realize that his replacement need not do anymore than respect judicial decorum to be a major improvement! Here ... http://caselaw.findlaw.com/in-supreme-court/1162301.html KNOW THIS .. Judge Rucker was on the appellate court that the Wilkins brief criticized, and then Rucker had the audacity to not recuse himself when transfer was granted, after he moved up to the big leagues! So he sat over a case judging his own decision adverse to an attorney below ... Wow ... that says so much about what made the Shepard court tick. As an aside, Judge Boehm was the only constitutionalist on that court, if judged by his response to seeing Wilkins tied to the whipping post. See dissent here: http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/archive/02040301.bed.html
    • Hoping this is the one
      I hope you are right, Bryan J. Brown w/your comment "Let the swamp be drained".
      • Bravisimo
        On behalf of those who value and honor the Founders' Vision ... Thank you good governor. Let justice ring forth from the halls supposed to house the same. Let the swamp be drained.

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      1. The voices of the prophets are more on blogs than subway walls these days, Dawn. Here is the voice of one calling out in the wilderness ... against a corrupted judiciary ... that remains corrupt a decade and a half later ... due to, so sadly, the acquiescence of good judges unwilling to shake the forest ... for fear that is not faith .. http://www.ogdenonpolitics.com/2013/09/prof-alan-dershowitz-on-indiana.html

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      4. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

      5. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

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