I’d like to make a suggestion to Indiana lawmakers when they return for the 2015 legislative session. I am not telling you how to do your jobs, but this suggestion falls under the guise of editing, so I feel I’m within my bounds.
If those who write the laws feel an itch again this year to propose amendments to the Indiana Constitution, you may want to take a look at Article 7. In it, the chief justice of the state of Indiana is repeatedly referred to as “he.” On Aug. 18 at 1:20 p.m., that became inaccurate. As we all know, “he” is now a “she.”
As long as you’re at it, and in the spirit of being thorough, a more extensive review may be in order. It appears that most state office holders are referenced as male throughout the document. The lieutenant governor, for example, is also referenced as “he” in the Indiana Constitution. That one has been erroneous for a while.
I am not faulting the framers of the constitution for their pronoun selection. When Indiana’s second constitution was written in 1851, women in this country were still decades away from having the right to vote. When Article 7 was last amended in 1970, there had not yet been a woman on the Indiana Supreme Court, so the chances were slim that a female chief justice was in the offing.
But things are different today.
Not only does the chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court happen to be female, but so is the chief judge of the Indiana Court of Appeals, Judge Nancy Vaidik. Our state’s tax court is presided over by Judge Martha Wentworth. At the federal level, Judge Robyn Moberly was appointed in July as chief judge of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Indiana.
Now, to those of you preparing to fire off a firmly worded email suggesting that I am “failing to see the forest for the trees,” please know that I realize the appointment of these very qualified women to top leadership positions does not mean that gender diversity in the legal profession or, specifically, the judiciary has been achieved. Clearly, work remains.
But the Indiana Lawyer devotes time and ink to reporting on shortcomings that exist concerning diversity and other areas of law, and I am a firm believer that we must report both sides of a story. We will shine a light on problems we see, but we will also blow the trumpet to celebrate success.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush remarked shortly after her selection that she “looks forward to the day when it is unremarkable” that a woman would be selected to lead the court. Throughout this process, she has made it clear that her motivation is to help keep the judiciary reflective of the diverse citizenry it serves. “The strength of our Supreme Court is based on the collective strength and wisdom of our five justices,” Rush said during her swearing-in ceremony, “and I am still just one vote.”
Gov. Mike Pence said that Rush was unanimously selected for this role because she was the best choice to lead the Supreme Court. The Judicial Nominating Commission had other very qualified candidates in Justices Steven David, Mark Massa and Robert Rucker, but they chose Rush because they agreed that she was the best person for the job today.
Most “firsts” seem remarkable – they require quashing stereotypes and clearing hurdles – and this one certainly earned a spot in the history books. With the selection of Loretta Rush as chief justice, another glass ceiling has been broken in Indiana. Now, as she said at the conclusion of her swearing-in ceremony, it is time to “get back to work.”•