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Justice Frank Sullivan leaving bench to teach

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On the same day Indiana’s newest Supreme Court justice started his job, Justice Frank Sullivan announced he would be stepping down from the bench to teach business and corporate finance law at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law this fall.

After almost 19 years as a justice, the 62-year-old South Bend native said this is his chance to start the next chapter of his career.

“Though my work here has been deeply satisfying and I’m proud of it, probably two years ago, I got to thinking I was reaching an age where if I was going to do one more big thing before retiring, I needed to get about it,” Sullivan said.

Last September, he contacted the law school and asked about a teaching job. He taught a public finance law class there as an adjunct professor from 2007 to 2009, which piqued his interest in a career move. Just before Thanksgiving, he agreed with Dean Gary Roberts to start talking more seriously in January.

But an end-of-the-year surprise made Sullivan slow down: Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard told Sullivan about his plans to leave the court. The news went public in early December.

Sullivan decided to wait for Shepard’s successor to be named and take the bench before announcing he would join the law school faculty. Sullivan told his staff and close friends after the governor chose Mark Massa March 23. Sullivan made a public announcement April 2, just a couple hours after the new justice was sworn in.

The job change takes Sullivan back to his business and corporate finance days – Sullivan worked as state budget director for three years and also practiced in corporate finance and securities law at Barnes & Thornburg in Indianapolis before joining the court.

“The law so dramatically impacts our economy, and our economy is impacted by the law. So this is exciting to be at that intersection, operating on that fault line,” he said.

Roberts said Sullivan will bring a valuable perspective to the law school’s roster, with a wealth of practical experience that is different than the typical faculty insight.

“He can help us build bridges that are critical to our law school’s success and future,” Roberts said. “This is truly a unique and special hire for us.”

This latest news continues a period of change for the Indiana Supreme Court and gives Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels a rare chance to make three appointments to the state’s highest court – a majority that could impact how cases are decided. That hasn’t happened since Democrat Evan Bayh made four appointments in the mid-1990s, including Sullivan.
 

sullivan-roberts-15col.jpg Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law Dean Gary R. Roberts, left, speaks with Justice Frank Sullivan at the law school. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Although Sullivan hasn’t yet decided when his last day will be, he knows it will be before the fall semester begins Aug. 22.

The Judicial Nominating Commission will interview applicants interested in becoming the state’s 108th justice, but the timing of that process hasn’t been announced. Sullivan said he hopes the application process is longer than what he’s observed during the past two appointment periods to replace Shepard and Justice Theodore Boehm. Applicants had about a month each time to apply. The fast elimination process may have discouraged some applicants in 2010 from applying again, and he hopes there’s more time for the nominating process this round.

Sullivan said he believes Indiana’s demographics support increasing the size of the Supreme Court. He thinks Indiana would be better served by seven justices instead of five – the Indiana constitution allows for between four and eight associate justices and one chief justice. He also thinks the court would be better off if there was at least one female justice, and he said having more members would allow for the possibility that more women could be appointed.

Sullivan hopes that more women apply this time and receive the commission’s consideration.

Sullivan recognizes that he had a hand in deciding that this Republican governor will choose his successor. Sullivan said who was serving as governor factored little into his decision to retire this year, and it plays into the nonpartisan nature this court has had through the years.

“In my almost 19 years on this court,” he said, “I don’t think there has been a single what I would call Democrat-versus-Republican case that has been decided on a party-line vote. Not one.”

Sullivan has been known for relentlessly questioning attorneys during oral arguments – often with hypothetical scenarios of future law that could result from what the court is deciding in the case before it. He likes to say that he “shoots from the hip,” and sometimes he wonders if he talks too much during arguments.

“Even if you are only deciding the case before you, you are writing for the future,” Sullivan said. “If you look at a lot of my questions, they are meant to test the arguments the lawyers are making against whether the rule of law they are advocating will work not only for their case but also the next case. I like engaging the lawyers. I learn a lot.”

Sullivan has written around 500 majority opinions, including Creasy v. Rusk in 2000, a civil tort case involving people with disabilities.

“I hope that my legacy would be one as a judge who tried to find the best decision, the best result to every case that came before the court without regard to any ideological or partisan preconception,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan is also known for chairing the Judicial Technology and Automation Committee, which has rolled out a statewide case management system known as Odyssey. That system is currently live in 120 courts, handling about 35 percent of the state’s caseload.

Sullivan’s work with minorities, including a recruitment program through the Indiana State Bar Association, has also defined his judicial career.

Barnes & Thornburg partner Jimmie McMillian called Sullivan the inspiration for his legal career. The attorney clerked for Sullivan from 2002-2004, and the justice then encouraged him to join Barnes & Thornburg. McMillian said he wasn’t interested because he was looking at smaller firms that served African-American clients. But Sullivan convinced him that he could do good and feel comfortable at a large firm setting, and the two have grown to have a father-son style relationship.

“You would be hard pressed to find another member of the judiciary who is as committed to diversity as he is,” McMillian said.

Appellate attorney Bryan Babb at Bose McKinney & Evans, another of Sullivan’s former law clerks, said this departure is a loss for the Supreme Court but an opportunity for the rest of the legal community.

“We’ve all benefited from those years of consistency and stability on the court, whether you agree with the decisions or not,” he said. “The challenge will be moving ahead with that same level of consistency and respect, but also taking it to the next level.”•

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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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