Saying “the time is right for this transition,” Chief Justice Brent Dickson announced Wednesday he would relinquish his leadership of the state Supreme Court but will remain as an associate justice until he faces mandatory retirement in just over two years.
The Judicial Nominating Commission will select the next chief justice and has scheduled public interviews Aug. 6 with Justices Steven David, Mark Massa, Robert Rucker and Loretta Rush to determine who will succeed Dickson.
Dickson expects to step down from his leadership role sometime before Sept. 1, according to a statement from the court.
“It has been a great joy and a privilege to have helped continue the Court’s tradition of excellence — especially with four hard-working colleagues who are devoted to the law,” Dickson said in a statement. “I am looking forward to being able to spend most of my time in legal research, deciding cases, and writing opinions.”
Dickson has led the court since May 2012, when he succeeded the state’s longest-serving chief justice, Randall Shepard. “Knowing that my tenure as chief justice was limited, each associate justice has actively participated in much of the administrative responsibilities and decisions of the office of chief justice,” Dickson said.
“The time is right for this transition. The court and state will be well served when one of my colleagues is selected as the next chief justice.”
Gov. Mike Pence saluted Dickson, saying he “has served our state well for the last two years as the head of our state’s highest court, and has brought his outstanding legal expertise and practical judgment to bear throughout his 28 years as a member of the court. I know him to be a man of great faith, and I applaud his long-standing commitment to public service in the legal system and look forward to his continued wisdom as he remains on the court.”
As chair of the seven-member Judicial Nominating Commission, Dickson will have a say in who succeeds him on the court. The commission also includes three lawyers elected by attorneys and three lay members appointed by the governor. There are two members appointed by Pence and one filling the remainder of a term who was appointed by former Gov. Mitch Daniels.
Dickson was selected in 1986 as the 100th justice appointed to the Indiana Supreme Court. His former colleague on the high court, Frank Sullivan Jr., said Dickson's modest and inclusive approach has been appreciated by the many judges, lawyers and citizens with whom he has had contact.
“I am pleased that Chief Justice Dickson will remain a member of the Supreme Court," said Sullivan, now a professor at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. "During his long tenure – indeed, the second longest tenure of any Indiana Supreme Court justice in history – he has authored some of the most important and far-reaching opinions of the court. The breadth and strength of the court’s decisions will benefit from his continued efforts."
Among the major initiatives during his tenure as chief justice, Dickson expanded efforts to bring the court’s trial court technology system to all Indiana courts, revitalized the use of volunteer attorneys to provide civil legal aid to the needy, and initiated the reform of Indiana’s pre-trial release system to enhance public safety, reduce taxpayer expense and provide greater fairness.