Members of Indiana’s legal community and state government gathered Friday to honor Indiana Justice Brent Dickson on his last day on the court, including bestowing him with one of the state’s highest honors.
The ceremony marked the last time all five current justices will sit together on the bench in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom in the Statehouse. Dickson announced in November that he planned to retire this month, prior to his 75th birthday in July. He will remain as a senior judge and plans on continuing to work on the project studying pretrial release in Indiana.
All four of Dickson’s colleagues on the bench paid tribute to the second-longest serving justice in Indiana history. Justice Mark Massa recalled the day he met Dickson, Dec. 18, 1985, the day it was announced that Gov. Robert Orr selected Dickson for the Supreme Court. Massa was a speechwriter and deputy press secretary for the governor and crafted the press release on Dickson’s appointment.
He noted that Dickson has had a huge impact on the law and will be quoted and cited for decades to come.
Justice Steven David compared Dickson’s tenure with that of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Johnson Field, who served on the high court for 34 years, and who is considered one of the five worst U.S. Supreme Court justices in history.
He said Dickson is easily one of the five best justices Indiana has ever had and has been a public servant his entire life.
David played on the fact that Indiana Comic Con is in Indianapolis this weekend and called Dickson a “true judicial superhero.” In fact, he plugged Dickson’s name into a website that generates superhero names and awarded Dickson the name “Captain Civility.”
The name is fitting for Dickson, who has been repeatedly praised, both at his retirement ceremony and throughout his career, for championing civility and respect.
Rucker, who has served nearly 17 years with Dickson the bench, explained that “what you see is what you get” when it comes to Dickson — cool, collected, rock solid and a steady hand. He also noted that based on an analysis of Supreme Court opinions, the two have been the most aligned justices.
Rush paid tribute to her mentor and colleague when both were in private practice in Lafayette. She said a highlight for her is that she began her career with him and he ends his time on the bench with her.
Gov. Mike Pence also spoke at the event, presenting Dickson and his wife, Jan Aikman Dickson, Sagamore of the Wabash awards for their service to Indiana. Aikman Dickson founded the national Judicial Family Institute and was inducted into the Warren E. Burger Society in 2012. Aikman Dickson told the crowd that “fair has been at the center of his thinking.” Being a lawyer has been a good career for him and being on the Supreme Court was the ideal spot.
Dickson thanked everyone for attending the ceremony and said he was truly overwhelmed with gratitude. He has had 38 law clerks in his career and noted that many were in attendance Friday. The Rev. Amy Conner Cornell, who gave the invocation for the ceremony, was his law clerk from 2003-2005.
Dickson said his years on the bench have deepened his love and respect for lawyers. He said it was a joy laboring with his fellow justices through the years on the bench. Dickson has served with 12 justices during his career, several of whom were in attendance, including Myra Selby and Randall Shepard.
He individually praised each of his colleagues and mentioned several qualities that he said the three finalists to replace him share.
“The Supreme Court is indeed in very good hands,” he said.