After 17 years on the appellate bench, Judge John T. Sharpnack is retiring today from the Indiana Court of Appeals.
Though he’s stepping down as a full-time jurist, Judge Sharpnack plans to continue his work as a senior judge starting Monday; he reaches the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 75 May 7.
A 3 p.m. retirement ceremony was planned to mark his departure from the court, with Chief Judge John Baker presiding. Judge Sharpnack’s family, colleagues, former law clerks, and special guests were expected to attend. A webcast of the ceremony can be viewed online.
During his tenure, Judge Sharpnack authored a total 2,124 opinions, handing down four published opinions in the past week and circulating another 10 for votes that will be handed down after he becomes a senior judge, according to a court spokeswoman. He’s also been on panels of other decisions issued this week, including today’s ruling on Bonner v. Daniels that involved the judiciary’s review of public school financing.
A Columbus, Ind., native, Judge Sharpnack has been an attorney for more than four decades after graduating from the University of Cincinnati’s College of Law in 1960. He’s worked as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division in Washington, D.C., and also was a partner at his hometown firm his grandfather founded, Sharpnack Bigley David & Rumple.
He was appointed to the appellate court’s fifth district in January 1991 by then-Gov. Evan Bayh and has been retained twice since then. His judicial colleagues recalled one of his most recognized accomplishments on the bench was the nine years he’d served as chief judge between Sept. 9, 1992, and Dec. 31, 2001. During that time, some of his accomplishments include the court’s creation of a motions panel to rule on motions made prior to a case being fully briefed, initiating a rotating panel system for deciding cases, and starting the court’s senior judge program – of which he’ll now be taking advantage.
With his departure, Judge Elaine B. Brown from Dubois Superior Court will succeed Judge Sharpnack on the appellate bench. The governor chose her for the spot in February from finalists selected earlier in the year by the Judicial Nominating Commission; 15 had originally applied.
This marks the second time in a year the appellate court has welcomed a new judge; last August, Judge Cale Bradford from Marion Superior Court succeeded Judge Patrick D. Sullivan, who reached the mandatory retirement age and has taken senior judge status.