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Loretta Rush is Indiana's next justice

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As a Purdue University undergrad in the 1970s, Loretta Hogan took off a semester to backpack around Europe with friends. She returned home and completed her studies on time.

Now appointed to serve on the Indiana Supreme Court, Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Hogan Rush takes such feats in her life in stride. She said Purdue “used to let you take 21 (credit) hours. I used to take 18 to 21 hours and work.”
 

supreme04-15col.jpg Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Rush speaks to reporters Sept. 14 after Gov. Mitch Daniels announced her appointment to the Indiana Supreme Court. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Rush’s colleagues in the Lafayette legal community say that kind of no-nonsense approach is a hallmark of a judge who handles some of the toughest cases in Tippecanoe County – those involving juvenile justice, children in need of services and other matters of family law. They say Rush melds a tireless work ethic, exacting legal judgment, compassion for children and an engaging demeanor.

“She was able to sit in the lobby at the Cary Quad and she could talk to anybody, no matter who they were,” Lisa V. Schrader recalled of their days at Purdue. Now a private practice attorney in Lafayette, Schrader was a sorority sister with Hogan and introduced the future judge to her future husband, James Rush.

“I think she was an excellent choice,” Schrader said. “She’s always worked hard and given 100 percent and always done the right thing in cases she’s had before her.”

Rush will be only the second woman to serve on Indiana’s Supreme Court. Myra Selby served from 1995-1999, and Gov. Mitch Daniels had been pressured to appoint a woman. Until this appointment, Indiana was among just three states, along with Idaho and Iowa, that had no female justices.

Tippecanoe County Bar Association President Patricia Truitt said there was a buzz early on that Rush might be the one selected.

“We knew a lot of women had thrown their hats in the ring,” Truitt said. “Certainly the hope was that they pick Loretta rather than, ‘We hope they pick a woman.’”

Earlier this month, the Tippecanoe Bar hosted an event called “Hail to Our Chiefs” that honored Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson and Court of Appeals Chief Judge Margret Robb, both of whom have deep roots in Lafayette.

Truitt said that Rush, who then was among three finalists for the Supreme Court vacancy, received a standing ovation when she rose to introduce Robb. The appeals court chief’s address focused on inroads that women have made in the legal profession in the last 35 years.

“I think people went out sort of thinking, ‘You know, the time is ripe for a woman and an outstanding woman,’” Truitt said. “I think it was a very good choice, and time will tell if it was truly a brilliant choice.”

Urged on

Rush might not have tossed her hat into the ring without a nudge – or several.

“She had to be persuaded to apply,” said Mike Stapleton, a partner at Ball Eggleston PC in Lafayette who has known Rush for about 25 of the 40 years he’s practiced. Stapleton and others lobbied her.

“It was only after a fair amount of prodding by lawyers and judges that she agreed to do it,” he said.

He said Rush took advantage of mentors, including Dickson, who was a partner at Dickson, Reiling, Teder and Withered when Rush was hired there in 1983. She worked at the firm until 1997, had a private practice for a time, and became a judge in 1998.

“She inherited a financially challenged courtroom situation – it was a couple million dollars in debt. She cleaned up that courtroom and she was clearly the leader and the consensus-maker among the local judges,” Stapleton said. “She has a reputation of being a very tough judge and on top of it being a very nice person, and that’s a really hard thing to do.”

Rush acknowledges her hefty caseload in Tippecanoe Superior Court 3 and said unwinding her obligations means that she probably will join the Supreme Court sometime around the first of November.

“I want to leave my court strong,” she said. “I just want to leave it in good shape.”

Dickson said Rush had indicated as much. “I know she’s very enthusiastic both in doing a sound job to complete the job she’s engaged in but in joining us as well.”

Justice Steven David said he knows Rush well from having worked together on juvenile justice issues. David was a Boone County judge before becoming a justice.

“She was a great trial judge and she’ll be a great addition to this Supreme Court,” David said. “She’s one of those individuals that went to work every day, and every day was a new opportunity to make lives better for families and children.”

The court’s most recent appointee, Justice Mark Massa, said he’s gotten to know Rush during the selection process and since. He noted her work with juvenile justice programs and court technology in particular.

“You look at her résumé and her commitment to the administration of our judicial system across the board, and she’s much more than a case processor. She’s been involved in a lot of things that make the judiciary work,” Massa said. “She will love the job.”

Tough cases

In her application to the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission, Rush wrote about a case in which she had served as a guardian ad litem in 1986 for a 14-year-old boy, J.S., who had been a ward of the state in a variety of placements since age 2. In 1998, a month before Rush took the bench, John Jesse Swaynie burst into Rush’s home and attempted to kill Rush’s husband.

Rush had to hide the children and get help. She and her husband were injured, and Swaynie, with whom Rush had kept in intermittent telephone contact over the years, later was convicted of attempted murder and burglary.

Rush said it wouldn’t have made sense to leave out such a prominent event. “I think when I had to put the five most significant legal matters I’ve had, it’s hard not to put that,” she said. “It’s not my favorite thing to write.”

But what she wrote about that experience gave insight into the mindset she took to the bench.

“I look at the children that find themselves in our court system and understand the long-standing toll such things as child abuse, neglect and untreated mental health can have on their adult lives,” Rush wrote.

Teri Flory, who runs a private practice in Lafayette that deals primarily with family law, said Rush and her court are highly organized.

“I enjoy practicing in her court because I know she truly cares about the children,” Flory said. “During hearings it’s very evident she remembers the children and remembers their situations.”

She said Rush hears cases that range from minor juvenile delinquency to children in tragic and heartbreaking circumstances. “To continue to hear that day after day, I can’t imagine the kind of outlet she would have to have,” Flory said.

For Rush, it’s family.

“I have a great husband; that helps,” Rush said. “My kids give me a lot of balance and a lot of perspective. Having a great family, great friends, that gives you the balance you need.”

Truitt said Rush will be missed in the Tippecanoe County Courthouse and for the time she gave to the community. But she also said Rush leaves a remarkable example.

“It’s not unusual for modern women to try to do it all,” Truitt said. “And you can’t do it all. But the way you balance priorities tells a lot about a person, I think.”•

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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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