A judge with a statewide reputation as a leader in juvenile justice was named Friday as Indiana’s 108th Supreme Court justice and the second woman to serve on the high court.
Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Rush, 54, said she was thrilled to get the news that Gov. Mitch Daniels had selected her from a field of three finalists to replace retired Justice Frank Sullivan Jr.
“I hope your hearing has come back to your left ear,” Rush quipped to Daniels, who called Rush on Thursday to confirm that he had chosen to appoint her.
“I intend to work with the other four justices to build on our Supreme Court’s record of excellence, integrity and respect for the law,” Rush said in her official statement. She said that as a judge, she’s been “a beneficiary of the standard set by the Indiana Supreme Court.”
Indiana had been one of three states, along with Idaho and Iowa, without a woman on its Supreme Court, but Daniels said gender played a small role in his choice.
“As I’ve said on many, many previous occasions, quality comes first,” Daniels said. He called Rush’s years in private practice and on the bench stellar and said her background and judicial temperament made her stand out.
“I’m utterly convinced Indiana is making the best possible choice,” he said.
In addition to overseeing the Tippecanoe County court that deals with juvenile cases, Rush chairs the Indiana Juvenile Justice Improvement Committee that has worked to better and standardize child welfare practices. She also is the president of the 113-member Indiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges.
“No one has been more respected in this area than Judge Rush,” Daniels said.
Rush accepted the appointment with her husband, James, and three of her four children beside her. “Having my family’s support is huge,” she said.
Rush said she believes in judicial restraint and cited the opinions of Antonin Scalia when asked about U.S. Supreme Court justices she respects. Daniels praised Rush for “respect for the meaning of words as they are written.”
With Daniels next year taking the helm at Purdue University, he chose in Rush a Boilermaker alum who worked her way through Indiana University Maurer School of Law.
Out of law school, Rush worked in private practice with fellow Purdue grad and Chief Justice Brent Dickson at Dickson Reiling Teder and Withered in Lafayette.
“I was a lawyer in Lafayette when our firm was privileged to hire Loretta to work for us,” Dickson said Friday. “She’s a product of Indiana education at its best. … She’s going to be a great addition to the court.”
Daniels said Rush indicated a hope and ambition to serve on the court for many years, which he said would be important to foster the court’s reputation for continuity.
Rush’s application to the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission can be viewed on the court's website.
Rush will replace Sullivan, who retired from the court July 31 to teach at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. Since Sullivan’s retirement, the court has issued just one opinion.
When Rush will join the Supreme Court is uncertain. A formal robing ceremony has not been set. Rush said she must clear her active caseload in Tippecanoe County, and Dickson said the Supreme Court will appoint a temporary judge to fill in until Daniels names a replacement.
Rush will join Myra Selby as Indiana’s only other female justice. Selby served on the Supreme Court from 1995 to 1999.
Rush is Daniels’ third appointment to the five-member panel, having previously named justices Steven David to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Justice Ted Boehm and Mark Massa to succeed former Chief Justice Randall Shepard, who stepped down this year.
The other finalists were Hamilton Superior Judge Steve Nation and attorney Geoffrey Slaughter.