Lawrence retiring from Southern Indiana District Court

Senior Judge William Lawrence of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana will retire June 30, creating a “bittersweet” moment for the federal court that was his judicial home for nearly 17 years.

A retirement ceremony for Lawrence will be held at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the William E. Steckler Ceremonial Courtroom (courtroom 202) at the Birch Bayh Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in Indianapolis. The even is public but seating will be limited.

“Judge Lawrence’s departure from the bench is a bittersweet time,” said Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson. “My fellow judicial officers and I will miss his sense of humor, kindness and his contributions to the law — including, of course, the caseload that he carried while on senior status. At the same time, we are delighted that he is leaving to enjoy the fruits of his many years of labor and wish him and his family well as they embark on a new chapter in their lives.”

Lawrence made history when he became the first magistrate judge to be confirmed a judge in the Southern Indiana District. He joined the federal court in November 2002 as a magistrate judge, a position he later described as “the best job I ever had.” Then, after being tapped by President George W. Bush, he was sworn in as a judge on June 26, 2008.

Recalling the moment when he and a group of lawyers interrupted a settlement conference to watch his confirmation vote on C-SPAN, Lawrence it was an “incredible day” and he was “fortunate for that to happen.”

He filled the vacancy created when now-retired Judge John Tinder was confirmed to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. The seat became open again when Lawrence took senior status in July 2018 and has since been filled by Judge James Patrick “J.P.” Hanlon.

A 1965 graduate of Mooresville High School, Lawrence earned his bachelor’s degree at Indiana University in 1970 and went on to complete a J.D. at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in 1973.

Prior to being a magistrate judge, Lawrence was an elected Judge of the Marion Circuit Court from 1996 to 2002, after serving as a part-time master commissioner there for more than 13 years. He served as a part-time public defender in Marion County Criminal Court 4 for nine years.

In 1980, Lawrence was appointed executive director of Indiana’s first Merit Selection Commission on Federal Judicial Appointments by then-Sen. Richard Lugar. Lawrence also served on the Indianapolis Fire Department Civilian Merit Board from 1983 to 1989.

Lawrence was elected to the Board of Directors of the Indiana Judicial Conference in September 1997, where he served on the Court Management Committee. He was re-elected in 1999 and in 2001.

He has been a member of the Indianapolis Bar Association since 1973, where in 1997 he was appointed, and then re-appointed in 1999 and 2001, as chairman of the association’s continuing legal education commission. He was nominated in 1997 as a “Fellow of the Foundation” by the Indianapolis Bar Foundation and currently serves as “Master” in the Sagamore American Inn of Court.

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