Search begins for new Supreme Court justice

May 25, 2010

For the first time in more than a decade, Indiana’s Supreme Court will find itself searching for a new justice.

Justice Theodore R. Boehm announced today that he’s stepping down from the court on Sept. 30, ending a 14-year career on the state’s highest bench. He turns 72 that month and said this is the best time to step down before he hits the mandatory retirement age of 75.

He’d weighed the pros and cons for some time, but a combination of factors such as his wife’s approaching retirement and a desire to spend more time with family helped make up his mind.

“It’s been an honor, but it would have to happen in the next three years,” he said. “This is the best time for me.”

It’s the first vacancy on the high court since former Justice Myra Selby left the bench for private practice in 1999.

Justice Boehm became the state’s 104th justice when then-Gov. Frank O’Bannon chose him to replace Justice Richard DeBruler who retired in August 1996.

To date, Justice Boehm has authored 467 majority opinions – including one released today – and 77 dissenting opinions. Some highlights of his judicial career include his work on webcasting all of the court’s oral arguments, leading the effort for a set of new appellate rules, leadership on a jury pool project, and a 2000 constitutional amendment that changed the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction to a mostly discretionary role.

“While it is disappointing to lose Justice Boehm as a colleague, we are all grateful for his 14 years of service to our state’s judiciary,” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard said in a statement. “He has brought powerful insight to our deliberations and enormous energy to the goal of making Indiana a better place for its citizens.”

Justice Boehm is one of the state’s three sitting justices who had not served as a judge before being elevated to the Supreme Court. Born in Illinois, Justice Boehm grew up in Indianapolis and went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1963. He served as a law clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren after graduation, then returned to Indiana and joined Indianapolis firm Baker & Daniels in 1964, becoming managing partner in 1980. Through the years, he led the organizing committee for the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis and became the first president and chief executive officer of Indiana Sports Corp., and he served as counsel for various firms such as Eli Lilly before returning to Baker & Daniels in 1995.

At this point, Justice Boehm says he hasn’t made a decision on what he’ll do after leaving the high court – that is for another day. He won’t begin discussing options until after his court service ends, in order to not infringe on any cases that may come before him this year. He plans to remain sitting on pending cases and consider transfer requests during his remaining time on the bench, he said.

The seven-member Judicial Nominating Commission, chaired by Chief Justice Shepard, is responsible for taking applications and searching for a new justice. During the last search, 25 people applied for the opening. Interviews are expected in July and the commission will recommend three names to the governor for consideration and final appointment, according to court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan. This will be Gov. Mitch Daniels’ first chance to name someone to the state’s highest court; he has appointed two jurists to the Court of Appeals during his term.


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