Justice Robert Rucker’s retirement ceremony in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom Monday included compliments, honors, well wishes and singing.
A packed courtroom, which included many of Rucker’s family members, former law clerks, and former colleagues from the Indiana Supreme Court and Indiana Court of Appeals, celebrated Rucker’s 26 years on the appellate bench. He was appointed to the Court of Appeals in 1991 and then to the Supreme Court in 1999.
Gov. Eric Holcomb presented Rucker with the Sagamore of the Wabash, Indiana’s highest award, which is given to those of deep wisdom who counsel the governor, “or in your case, governors,” Holcomb explained. He said that the state would still be calling upon his wisdom even after retirement, and joked he understood that Rucker may not pick up the phone immediately.
Colleague Justice Steven David remarked that the sadness of this day is everyone’s selfishness that he is leaving. He also joked how Rucker, as a senior judge on the Court of Appeals beginning Saturday, will be able to cite Court of Appeals opinions he wrote previously as well as Supreme Court decisions he authored in his new opinions as a senior judge.
Representatives from the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs, the Indiana Judges Association, the Indiana State Bar Association and the National Bar Association Judicial Council, where Rucker served as chair for 2009-10, all spoke at the ceremony and praised his ethics, humility and hard work.
Rucker received several gifts at the ceremony, including a lapel pin commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, in which he served, a crystal bowl from the Supreme Court, and a bound collection of letters from his law clerks thanking him for his service. The law clerks also had his nearly 1,250 majority opinions from the COA and Supreme Court bound into volumes for the public to view.
Rucker said he is looking forward to rejoining his colleagues on the Court of Appeals and called it a “homecoming.”
“Having been afforded the opportunity to serve the people of the state of Indiana for more than a quarter of a century has been an honor beyond measure,” Rucker said.
Rucker's brother, Gregory Rucker, stood up during his remarks and sang excerpts of a song by Rev. Don Johnson in which Rucker would interject his thoughts, such as after Gregory sang. “I’ve had some good days,” Rucker responded, “A 5-0 opinion is a good day.” When Gregory sang. “I’ve had some hills to climb,” Rucker responded, “I wonder if I can get Justice David’s vote on this.”
But that wasn’t the only singing at the ceremony. Chief Justice Loretta Rush told the story of former Valparaiso Law School Dean Edward Gaffney singing “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” at Rucker's robing ceremony. The court surprised Rucker with students from Herron High School in Indianapolis who entered from the back of the courtroom while singing that song as they processed to the front.
After they finished, Rush asked the audience to stand and sing the first verse of the song, which closed out the ceremony.
The ceremony was webcast and is available on the court’s website.