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Indiana's newest jurist

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For Mark Massa, waiting for the decision as to who would be the next Indiana justice was the hardest part.

At first, he had trouble sleeping and jumped every time the phone rang. But eventually, he let go and was ready for anything, including becoming Justice Mark Massa.

Gov. Mitch Daniels announced March 23 he had selected his former general counsel to fill the spot left vacant by Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard’s retirement.

The number 23 has taken on a new meaning in Massa’s life thanks to the application and appointment process. One month prior to his appointment, he was named as one of the three finalists on Feb. 23.

“That’s my new favorite number, and not because of Michael Jordan or LeBron James,” Massa said with a laugh. “If I play the lottery, that’s the number I’ll have to go with.”

His appointment became official on April 2 when he took the oath of office, which was administered by Shepard during a short, private ceremony in the justices’ conference room.
 

massa-mark03-15col.jpg Mark Massa, left, is sworn in as a justice by former Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard in a private ceremony. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

When announcing his decision, Daniels described his pick as a superb selection and the finest choice he could have made. He chose Massa over Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford and Indiana Judicial Center Executive Director Jane A. Seigel. Daniels said he was impressed by Massa’s background and experience with all three branches of government as well as various aspects of legal practice. He has the principles and temperament to be a great justice and make his own historical contributions on “America’s best Supreme Court,” the governor said.

A 1989 graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, the 51-year-old Massa has led the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute since May 2011. He served as the governor’s general counsel from 2006 to 2010 before making an unsuccessful run for Marion County prosecutor and temporarily chairing the Indiana Alcohol & Tobacco Commission.

Massa served as an assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District from 2002 to 2005, where he oversaw criminal investigations and led a task force to combat mortgage fraud. Before that, he worked as chief counsel and a deputy prosecutor in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office for about seven years. In the early 1990s, he clerked for Shepard, the justice whose seat he will now occupy.

“This is a sobering responsibility, and I can’t put into words how much it means to be appointed by my governor to replace my judge,” he said. “It’s not something any attorney does, looking in the mirror and seeing a potential Supreme Court justice staring back. This is going to take a while to get used to.”

The fact Massa previously served as Daniels’ general counsel may have actually worked against him as a candidate, Daniels said, because he was so familiar with Massa that he overlooked what the legal community thought about him. Daniels said he was moved by the evidence and testimony in support of Massa.

Massa joins the current court with Acting Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Justices Steven David, Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan, although that lineup is short-lived as Sullivan announced – on the same day as Massa’s swearing-in – that he will be stepping down from the court this summer to take a teaching position at the Indianapolis law school.

On the day of Massa’s appointment, Dickson said the new chief justice selection process will be delayed so that Massa is able to “get settled.” The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission likely won’t proceed before the process begins to replace Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Carr Darden, who is retiring in July.

But one thing is certain from Massa’s point of view: He doesn’t want to be the chief and he plans to pull his name from that consideration.

Massa and Shepard had their first chance to meet for lunch a week after the announcement, and the former chief justice – now serving in part as an Indiana Court of Appeals senior judge – said he couldn’t have been more pleased with the governor’s selection.

“He has the character, mental power and generosity of heart to serve in ways that will make Indiana a place of greater justice,” Shepard said. “I’ve said it before, but I predict plenty of applause for his service and performance in the years to come.”

Massa said the appointment process was a unique experience, specifically because he found himself on the opposite end of the interview table. When he was the governor’s counsel, Massa had been the one questioning finalists and ultimately consulting with Daniels on the choices.

He’d asked finalists to review cases or even do some “homework” in preparing a ruling, but that’s not something he faced this time from general counsel Anita Samuels.

“Honestly, it felt like a lot of other meetings with the governor through the years,” Massa said. “We had a wide-ranging conversation about judicial philosophy and many aspects of being a judge.”

Knowing that he has “enormous shoes to fill,” Massa said he hopes to continue the type of collegiality and professionalism for which Shepard and the rest of this court are so well-respected. He doesn’t plan to immediately pursue a particular focus area like other justices have done, such as court media relations or technology, but said he wants to start off learning as much as possible across the board.

“The pride I am feeling, that I’ve felt since that moment when I found out, is indescribable,” he said. “I have an appreciation for the court and how it’s grown through the years in esteem, and I hope as a newcomer I can maintain those time-honored standards.”•

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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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