ILNews

Justice David joins the Indiana Supreme Court

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

One word marked Justice Steven H. David’s beginning on the Indiana Supreme Court.

“Wow,” was his response in amazement, moments after being sworn as the state’s 106th justice and donning his high court robe for the first time.

That reaction marked not only the historic change in the court’s lineup for the first time in 11 years, but also reflected the humility and modesty displayed by the newly appointed Supreme Court justice who took the bench Oct. 18.

An estimated 230 people packed the ornate third-floor courtroom inside the Indiana Statehouse that day, culminating a process that begin in May when Justice Theodore R. Boehm announced he’d be retiring from the court. The summer narrowed the nearly three dozen applicants down to three and Gov. Mitch Daniels on Sept. 17 chose the Boone Circuit judge to take that spot.
 

David The current Indiana Supreme Court Justices applaud their newest member, Justice Steven David. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

The investiture ceremony signified his official start on the court, which would be only two days before hearing his first trio of oral arguments and his first appellate court conference behind closed doors. Fifteen years at the trial court level combined with experience in military law, as a corporate legal counsel, and in private practice led to that point and put him in a spot he said he’d never dreamed he would be in.

“Gov. Daniels, sir, what can I say to the person who picked me over so many qualified candidates to be number 106,” Justice David said, moments after the governor administered the judicial oath, he put on the new robe for the first time and took a seat on the bench. “I haven’t got the tattoo yet but I intend to get one. It’ll go right over the gavel I have now.”

As the investiture ceremony began, Justice David’s picture on the courtroom wall between Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard and Justice Robert D. Rucker was covered with a red curtain. Just as he walked out with his new colleagues for the first time, the curtain was removed to reveal his portrait now displayed.

When introducing those who’d speak about the new member, Chief Justice Shepard praised the merit-selection system that sets Indiana apart from many of its neighboring states that endure high-dollar and contentious judicial elections.

The governor pointed to the new justice’s extensive experience at the trial court level, corporate experience with Mayflower, private practice in Columbus, and his longtime service as a U.S. Army colonel and judge advocate general who’d represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Nashville attorney James Reichert, who served as vice president of legal for Mayflower back when Justice David worked there, talked about his friend and colleague’s passion for running and his love for family, the latter being a true measure of the man and jurist. The story that the new justice had donated a kidney to his critically ill niece 16 years ago was a surprise to some the audience.

Justice David, who grew up in Bartholomew County, spoke of wanting to be a lawyer since he was a little boy, a desire to be on the bench since his first day of law school at Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, and that now having his own chambers with an engraved “Justice David” nameplate inside the Indiana Statehouse is beyond what he’d ever dreamed.

Justice David described his judicial philosophy as being one of humility, respect, fairness, and the rule of law. He also mentioned his love for family and juvenile cases and praised the civility and professionalism that the Supreme Court has demonstrated through the years.

“Every day I will do the best I can,” Justice David said, vowing to have respect for the executive and legislative branches and to always fight to protect the Indiana Constitution. “I have no agenda. I am not an ‘R’, I am not a ‘D’, I am not an ‘I’. I owe no one anything.”

But while marking some of the serious notes of the historic event, the ceremony clearly brought out the new justice’s lighter side, with Justice David himself and his friends and colleagues offering laughter, wit, and humor at every turn.

Citing his love for music lyrics and history, Justice David gave a speech that included references to Abraham Lincoln, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and country singers Kenny Chesney, Lee Brice, and Toby Keith. He used those musical references to note how he wanted to be a part of the solution, and how he hadn’t gotten to this point alone.

He also touched on what he described as the “elephant in the room,” about Justice Boehm being a man praised by many for his intellect. The new justice told a story about a law school professor of his who also knows Boehm, and said that while the former justice is “the smartest man she knows,” Justice David was a “memorable student.”

That brought laughter from everyone in the room, from those in the audience to the other justices on the bench.

“Now, the whole world knows what I’ve known for so long – that he has a wonderful sense of humor,” said former Indiana State Bar Association president and Columbus attorney Richard Eynon, whom Justice David clerked for while in law school and went to work for as a young attorney after graduation. “He’s not a clown or a jester, but he has within himself a way of making people very comfortable by creating laughter and lightening things up, all while being serious and always committed to the rule of law.”

Attending the investiture, Eynon took comfort in seeing something that he’s never before witnessed – all five justices on the bench laughing together and having fun. He described his former law clerk as being 100 percent unique, and that Indiana likely won’t ever see another justice with those same experiences and qualifications and personality.

“He’s not there to change the court, but yes, I think they’ll take his qualities and all of his experiences and change as a result of that,” Eynon said. “That’s a healthy jolt for the Supreme Court, and it’s a difference and change he’s already making. I think all lawyers in the state who listened or watched that investiture are smiling and saying, ‘Yes, this is a man who will represent all of us without failure.’”•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

ADVERTISEMENT