Each year, the IndyBar Women and the Law Division presents the Antoinette Dakin Leach Award to recognize the accomplishments of a female attorney in central Indiana. The award is named in honor of Antoinette Dakin Leach, one of the first women admitted to the Indiana Bar.
The spirit of Antoinette Dakin Leach lives on through each award winner and this year’s recipient, Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush, is no exception. Chief Justice Rush has forged a career from numerous groundbreaking accomplishments.
Of those groundbreaking accomplishments, she currently holds the position of Indiana’s first female chief justice. In the two years holding the position, Chief Justice Rush has left a lasting mark on the court system, streamlining the administrative side of the court, pioneering the new commercial court system to foster a specialized and efficient system of justice for business and making statewide data sharing and e-filing a reality.
Before her current position, Chief Justice Rush made her mark in the Lafayette community. She served as a juvenile judge in Tippecanoe County. Here she launched the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) program. In addition, she initiated and sustained more than 25 youth programs and provided mentoring and life-skills education to hundreds of children who were involved in the juvenile justice system in Tippecanoe County.
Prior to her judicial service, Rush developed her professional skills in the Lafayette legal community. She accepted her first position at Reiling Teder & Schrier LLC, focusing her practice on civil and family law. Members of the Lafayette legal community pour praise on their fellow community member, a reminder of what Chief Justice Rush is to the core—a faithful public servant.
William Emerick, an attorney at Stuart & Branigin LLP in Lafayette, has known Rush over 25 years. In an Indiana Lawyer article he states, “She was always a great advocate for her clients and was always very easy to work with” as an attorney, he said, remembering court cases he tried against her.
Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, recalls Rush’s swearing-in ceremony as Chief Justice. “She began her term humbly, choosing a private swearing-in ceremony in the Supreme Court Library, as opposed to a more public event. That gesture displayed who Loretta really is: a humble servant and leader. Her focus is on the work of the Court and not herself.”
While Chief Justice Rush has fine accomplishments of her own, her award nomination states what is remarkable is her dedication to bringing other women up with her, noting that she takes every opportunity to ensure the work of women judges is recognized in public ways.
Chief Justice Rush blazes a path not just for the Indiana legal community, but specifically for women who practice law. Colleagues note that Chief Justice Rush serves as a mentor and cheerleader for her colleagues; she brings their opinions and accomplishment to the forefront, that women judges are involved on the front lines of court reform and innovation and, as mentioned from colleagues, is there to give private praise to accomplishments in both their private and professional life.
As such a highly regarded woman in the legal profession and in her community, there are numerous feats in her professional life Chief Justice Rush could peg as her highest achievement. However, according to Judge Magnus-Stinson, “if you would ask her [Rush], she would say her four children and two granddaughters.”
This is what makes Chief Justice Rush our recipient for the 2016 Antoinette Dakin Leach Award, a woman who in all rights stands above the rest, yet is humble enough to remember her role as a servant leader.
Chief Justice Rush will be honored at a luncheon held at the Skyline Club in downtown Indianapolis on Tuesday, Oct. 11. Registration is available online at indybar.org/events.•