Almost three years after an effort to honor retired Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard was launched, the project has taken a new direction that some applaud as better than the initial idea.
On Thursday, the Indiana State Bar Association held a reception at the historic Vanderburgh County Courthouse to unveil the new scope of the commemoration. Shepard, ISBA president Jeff Hawkins and Evansville Bar Association president Laura Scott all made remarks at the event. Those attending included attorneys and judges from the Evansville Bar Association along with members of the ISBA’s current Leadership Development Academy class, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Melissa May and Indiana Supreme Court Justices Steven David and Mark Massa.
The idea to honor Shepard was initiated by the 2012 class of the Leadership Development Academy. Originally, the class intended to raise money and commission a work of art to be installed in Shepard’s hometown of Evansville.
But after the artist and design for the sculpture were selected, the project stalled. The development of the new park in Evansville where the art work was going to be located was delayed and the roughly $40,000 raised by the class was far short of the amount needed to construct the sculpture.
Instead, the funds will be used to create two separate recognitions.
Part of the money was used to create a plaque which will hang outside the Randall T. Shepard Courtroom in the historic courthouse. In 2011, the Evansville Bar Association had raised $300,000 to refurbish the courtroom and dedicated it in honor of Shepard.
But, Vanderburgh Superior Judge Leslie Shively said there was never any marker to identify who the namesake is. The plaque, unveiled last evening, gives a brief biography of the former chief justice and outlines his contributions to the legal profession and the state of Indiana.
The remaining funds are being donated to the EBA to establish the Randall T. Shepard Leadership Lecture Series. Both the EBA and the Evansville Bar Foundation are working together to develop the series, and the idea is to invite a nationally known legal scholar or attorney to Evansville each year to talk about leadership and its relation to the law.
“Quite frankly,” Shively said, “I think this resolution is better than what was initially intended.”
Shively and Vanderburgh retired Judge Carl Heldt joined Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts, chair of the ISBA Leadership Development Academy Committee, and discussed the options with the 2012 LDA class president Kevin Morrissey. They came up with the idea for the plaque.
Then Felts and the class approached Shepard for additional guidance, and the former chief justice proposed the lecture series.
“I just couldn’t be more pleased with the way it’s all worked out,” Felts said.