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State’s chief public defender retiring after 30 years

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Indiana Public Defender Susan K. Carpenter is retiring in May after almost 30 years in that position, the state’s highest court announced today.

The Indiana Supreme Court appointed Carpenter as state public defender in October 1981, serving as defense counsel to indigent prison inmates challenging convictions and sentences. During her tenure, the office has tripled in size and developed what the court describes as a well-respected reputation statewide and nationally.

A graduate of Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Carpenter has been practicing since 1976. She began her legal career as a Wayne County public defender and then as a deputy state public defender before being appointed as the chief defender.

In 2000, she received the Indiana Bar Association’s Achievement Award. She currently serves on the court’s Commission on Race and Gender Fairness and the Indiana Public Defender Commission, as well as the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute’s Board of Trustees.

Carpenter described it as an “honor and privilege” to serve in the state public defender's office and points to the historical significance of the office, noting the state’s establishment of the right to counsel on capital cases since 1854 and the Indiana Supreme Court in 1883 becoming one of the first nationally to establish post-conviction remedies.

Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said that Carpenter’s ability to be both zealous and elegant has allowed her to do one of the toughest jobs in government and that has made Indiana a place of greater justice.

With Carpenter's retirement effective in about three months, the court has not yet finalized its process to appoint a successor. Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said those details will be announced soon.

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