On Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard's final day as a member of the Indiana Supreme Court, Gov. Mitch Daniels named Mark S. Massa, a former state and federal prosecutor, as the state’s newest justice.
Daniels chose Massa, director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, on March 23 over Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford and Indiana Judicial Center Executive Director Jane A. Seigel. His selection came exactly one month after the three finalists had been chosen for his consideration.
Describing his pick as a superb selection and the finest choice he could have made, Daniels said he was impressed by Massa’s background and experience with all three branches of government as well as multiple aspects of legal practice. He has the merit, principle and temperament to be a great justice and make his own historical contributions on “America’s best Supreme Court,” the governor said.
A 1989 graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, Massa, who turned 51 on March 6, has led the Criminal Justice Institute since May 2011 and served as the governor’s general counsel from 2006 to 2010 before making an unsuccessful run for Marion County prosecutor and temporarily chairing the Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission.
Massa served as an assistant U.S. Attorney in the Southern District from 2002 to 2005, where he oversaw criminal investigations and led a task force to combat mortgage fraud. Before that, he worked as chief counsel and a deputy prosecutor in the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office for about seven years.
Early in his career, Massa trained under Shepard as his law clerk.
“This is a sobering responsibility, and I can’t put into words how much it means to be appointed by my governor to replace my judge,” Massa said. “It’s not something any attorney does, looking in the mirror and seeing a potential Supreme Court justice staring back. This is going to take a while to get used to.”
In a statement, Shepard said that Massa has the character, mental power and generosity of heart to serve in ways that will make Indiana a place of greater justice.
The governor said that the fact Massa previously served as his general counsel may have actually worked against him as a candidate, because he was so familiar with Massa that he overlooked what the legal community thought about him. Daniels said he was moved by the evidence and testimony in support of Massa.
No start date has been scheduled, Massa said, but he will begin winding down his work at the criminal justice institute while immediately transitioning to the court to begin getting familiar with the new job.
Massa joins Justices Steven David, Brent Dickson, Robert Rucker and Frank Sullivan on the Supreme Court. Indiana remains one of only three states without a female on the Supreme Court bench; the other two are Idaho and Iowa.
With Massa chosen, the Judicial Nominating Commission will be able to move forward with the process for appointing a new chief justice to a five-year term to succeed Shepard. All five justices will have the opportunity to be considered for that position. Dickson is serving as acting chief justice until that decision is made.
Dickson said Friday that a decision was made to let the new justice “get settled” on the court before moving ahead with chief justice appointment. He said the commission likely won’t make a chief justice appointment before the process begins to replace Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Carr Darden, who is retiring in July.