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Indiana Justice Boehm stepping down after 14 years

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When he started practicing law more than four decades ago, the thought of someday being a justice on the state’s highest court wasn’t something Theodore R. Boehm had in mind.

But after rising through the private practice ranks and tours of corporate counsel duty, he found himself as a member of the Indiana Supreme Court in August 1996.
 

Boehm Justice Theodore R. Boehm is retiring from the Indiana Supreme Court in September after 14 years on the bench. He became the state’s 104th justice when he was appointed in 1996. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Reflecting on that time, the 71-year-old justice says now that it was more luck than anything, and he didn’t or couldn’t plan on becoming an appeals judge if he’d tried.

“I certainly didn’t expect to be an appellate judge, and it was a tremendous amount of luck that went into getting this type of position,” he said. “I just happened to be in the right place at the right time.”

Now, after 14 years on the Indiana Supreme Court, Justice Boehm is ready to enter the next stage of his life and career. He announced May 25 that he’s stepping down from the court Sept. 30, about two weeks after he turns 72. Though he sought and received voter retention in 2008, he knew then that he wouldn’t be able to continue his full term before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. This has been a decision Justice Boehm’s been mulling for some time, but a combination of factors such as his wife’s approaching retirement and a desire to spend more time with family helped make up his mind.

“It’s been an honor, but it would have to happen in the next three years,” he said, adding that he isn’t sure if he would’ve reached the same decision if the mandatory retirement age wasn’t set as it is. “This is what state law says, and I’ve known about it since I started, and so this is the best time for me.”

Becoming a justice

Born in Illinois, Justice Boehm grew up in Indianapolis and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1963. He served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren after graduation, and then returned to Indiana. He joined Indianapolis firm Baker & Daniels in 1964, becoming a partner in 1970 and the firm’s first managing partner in 1980. He was heavily involved in complex corporate law cases, including representing Eli Lilly against insurers who refused coverage of multi-million dollar lawsuits brought by women, and even made it to the Supreme Court of the United States.

Boehm left Baker & Daniels in 1988 to become general counsel of General Electric’s appliances division, moving up the ranks quickly before becoming deputy general counsel for Eli Lilly in the mid-1990s. He then returned to Baker & Daniels the year before his selection to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Through the years, he was also actively involved in Indianapolis sports and economic development and served in roles such as leader of the organizing committee for the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, as well as first president and chief executive officer of Indiana Sports Corp.

His litigator role changed in 1996, when then-Gov. Evan Bayh chose him as the state’s 104th justice to succeed Justice Richard DeBruler, who retired that year after a quarter century on the appellate bench. He was 57 at the time, which was “old for a rookie justice,” Justice Boehm says now.

Through the years, Justice Boehm has authored 468 majority opinions and 77 dissenting opinions at the time of this story’s deadline. Some highlights of his judicial career include his work on webcasting all of the court’s oral arguments, leading the effort for a set of new appellate rules, leadership on a jury pool project, and a 2000 constitutional amendment that changed the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to a mostly discretionary role.

But he doesn’t take credit for it. Keeping a modest tone about his role and accomplishments, he downplayed his significance on the court and said he’s just been one member of a phenomenal five-person court that’s remained together for more than a decade.

“This is all a compliment to the court, not me personally,” Justice Boehm said about the response to his retirement announcement. “It takes three, at least, to get anything done and this is nothing that I can personally take sole credit for. This court has left a legacy for modernizing the Indiana judiciary overall, but it’s a process that took all of us.”

In fact, recalling stories that stand out during his time on the bench, Justice Boehm pointed to one about how he influenced his colleagues.

“One of the most memorable moments was during a conference, when a great big fly about a half-inch in length was in the room, and I was there catching him flat-handed. … That absolutely astonished the staff and justices,” he said with a laugh, noting that it’s a highlight that illustrates how collegial the court has been.

Though he’s modest, Justice Boehm’s colleagues and those within the legal community who know him the best say that he’s irreplaceable.

“While it is disappointing to lose Justice Boehm as a colleague, we are all grateful for his 14 years of service to our state’s judiciary,” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said in a statement. “He has brought powerful insight to our deliberations and enormous energy to the goal of making Indiana a better place for its citizens.”

Nationally, the Indiana Supreme Court is widely regarded for its efforts to modernize the state’s judicial system and also for its collegiality – something that observers largely attribute to the merit-based selection system that’s been in place since 1970 and doesn’t result in the heated election campaigns that other states experience.

That collegiality is one aspect of how Justice Boehm has stood out in being the person other justices can rely on when a quick analysis and decision is needed on a complicated case, said Joel Schumm, Indianapolis attorney and law professor at Indiana University School of Law -- Indianapolis who clerked for the justice in the late ’90s.

For example, the Indiana Toll Road case in 2006 and a Southwestern Bell Corp. case in the late ’90s were emergency cases that were lengthy and complicated, but Justice Boehm was able to turn them around quickly and make them understandable, Schumm said.

“He’s at the top of his game, and his productivity and work product are as good as they could ever be,” Schumm said. “I’d say he’s brilliant. He can take any legal issue in any wide variety of law, take those complicated matters and make them understandable with ease and poise. He’ll be hard to replace because he can do so many different things.”

Other issues that stand out in Justice Boehm’s time on the court include the 2000 constitutional amendment that gave the Supreme Court almost complete discretion over which cases to consider, basically making it a court of last resort.

In death-penalty cases where unanimity hasn’t been as common, Justice Boehm tended to side with granting inmates further appeals, often in the dissenting position. Last fall, he was one of three judges in the majority when the court adopted a new rule that will require videotaping of most felony police interrogations starting in 2011.

“He’s been at the court at a time when the administrative side has grown significantly, and that’s helped the justice wheels turn more quickly and efficiently here in Indiana and across state lines,” said Indianapolis attorney Paul Jefferson, who clerked for Justice Boehm from 2002 to 2004. “His ability to distill complicated issues into the simplest terms is amazing and what many of us aspire to do as attorneys.”

Justice Boehm’s outside involvement in cultural tourism initiatives, the sports community, and economic development has been a benefit to everyone – not just those in the legal community.

“He’s done many things outside of just wearing a robe, and I think the city and state are better off for it,” Jefferson said.

Uncertain future

Now, the search begins for a new justice. This is the first vacancy on the high court since former Justice Myra Selby left the bench for private practice in 1999, and Justice Robert Rucker took that spot. Applicants have until the end of June to submit their names for consideration, and interviews are expected to wrap up in July before Gov. Mitch Daniels gets his chance to select his first state justice.

Justice Boehm won’t weigh in on the process, and he doesn’t want to talk about what his future holds before his service on the court wraps up. With four months remaining, he plans to continue hearing cases and deciding transfers until it’s no longer prudent to do so. He hasn’t made a decision and won’t begin discussing options until after his judicial service ends, in order to not infringe on any cases that may come before him this year. That’s different from the last time the Supreme Court saw an opening, when former Justice Selby announced her retirement with plans to return to private practice at a specific firm.

For now, all Justice Boehm will say is that golf, traveling, and family time are likely in his future after September. Until then, he won’t know whether his prediction from his days as a “rookie justice” – that this would be his last stop in his legal career – will remain true.

But those who know him, such as former clerks, agree that this likely won’t be the end of the legal community’s interaction with the longtime lawyer who’s been a key force in the state’s judiciary.

“I don’t think we’ve see the last of him,” Jefferson said. “Don’t expect him to sit quietly by and go into retirement without doing anything. That’s not Justice Boehm.”•
 

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

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