Even if Justice Brent Dickson wasn’t required to give up his seat on the Indiana Supreme Court when he turns 75 in July, he said Monday his decision to retire would be the same.
“I realized I was ready and the time was right,” Dickson said in an interview shortly after his retirement was announced.
Dickson, who will mark 30 years on the court in January, presided over one of the most significant transitions in the court’s history as three justices were appointed to the high court in a little more than two years. He served as chief justice from from May 15, 2012, to Aug. 18, 2014, when he was succeeded by Loretta Rush.
“I hate to say I’m not needed anymore, but I’m not needed anymore,” Dickson quipped.
After he retires, Dickson will serve as a senior judge, but he won’t be hearing cases. He’ll assist with court administration, working a day or two a week. “My court colleagues urged I help out,” he said. He also plans to work in mediation/arbitration and do some writing.
But he’s also looking forward to life without the demands of deciding cases.
“I hope to wind down, spend a little time enjoying life’s pleasures with (wife) Jan, playing piano and enjoying grandpa time,” he said.
Dickson recalled that about 30 years ago, he had been running a law firm in Lafayette for about 17 years and enjoyed the work immensely. He was at a conference when some colleagues approached him about considered applying for a Supreme Court vacancy. He hadn’t, but he said the urging of his peers prompted him to step forward.
“I hope we get a lot of applicants,” he said, encouraging lawyers and judges to think about putting their hats in the ring, or to encourage others they believe would serve the court well. “Frankly, that’s the reason I made the announcement now rather than waiting until four months before my (mandatory retirement) departure.”
The judicial selection process will begin Thursday, when applications will be made available on the Supreme Court website. The Judicial Nominating Commission is expected to interview applicants seeking Dickson’s position sometime in January.
As a justice, Dickson has authored 884 civil and criminal opinions and several law review articles. He chaired the Supreme Court’s Records Management Committee, Judicial Data Processing Committee, the Task Force for Public Access to Court Records and several other committees. He is also known for his efforts to enhance attorney civility, increase lawyer pro bono legal services, encourage mediation and support the jury trial system.
“Throughout Justice Brent Dickson's historic tenure on the Indiana Supreme Court, his intellect and opinions have shaped Indiana law and judicial practice for the benefit of all Hoosiers. His tenure, including as Chief Justice of Indiana, has been characterized by integrity and a deep devotion to the judiciary in this state and he will be missed,” Gov. Mike Pence said in a statement.
Former Indiana Justice Frank Sullivan Jr., who served on the court with Dickson from 1993 to 2012, noted Dickson’s long tenure on the bench. Only Justice Isaac Blackford (1817-1853) served longer on the court than Dickson.
“But more than his longevity, Justice Dickson will be remembered for his many precedent-setting opinions for the Court, especially in the area of Indiana constitutional law, and for his unflagging commitment to promoting civility in the Indiana legal community. Nor should this opportunity pass without saluting Justice Dickson’s wife, Jan Aikman Dickson, for her years of noteworthy service addressing the special challenges of judicial family life,” Sullivan, now an Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professor, said in a statement.
Aikman Dickson is the founder of the national Judicial Family Institute, and she and Dickson have three adult sons and nine grandchildren. Dickson is a Gary native who graduated from Purdue University in 1964 and Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1968.