INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mitch Daniels ended an awkward drought for Indiana on Friday by naming a woman to the Indiana Supreme Court.
Tippecanoe County Judge Loretta Rush, 54, gave the governor an “eek” and an excited “yes” when he called her Thursday with the news.
“You don’t know when you put your name in that you’ll be standing here. I might have probably bet against it four or five months ago, but I believe in the process,” she said. “I believe you have to put yourself out for something you believe in.”
It was the third time Daniels had an appointment to the state’s highest court. He twice before tapped men for the five-member panel.
Until Friday, Indiana was one of only a few states without a female justice.
The first – and last – woman on the court was Justice Myra Selby, who left in 1999.
Daniels said he wasn’t oblivious to the fact that Indiana’s court was dominated by men but that he doesn’t want that discussion to diminish the stellar career of Rush.
“I wouldn’t want anyone to think that really was a necessary factor here,” he said. “I do believe she was clearly the best available choice. I’m totally comfortable with it, would have gladly made it on an utterly blind basis or if there were already two or three women on the Indiana Supreme Court.”
Rush noted that she does think it’s important to have a female presence on the court but doesn’t feel any extra pressure.
The latest vacancy occurred after Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. stepped down to teach at Indiana University’s law school in Indianapolis.
Rush spent 14 years of her career as an associate – then partner – in a Lafayette law firm focusing on family law as well as corporate and probate cases.
She was elected to the bench in 1998 and handles an active docket of juvenile cases, including guardianships, delinquencies, adoptions and protective orders.
Rush said she will have to wrap up business in that court before starting her new job.
She also cited U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s legal philosophy as one she would like to emulate.
“I believe in judicial restraint. I believe in respect for the other branches of government. They are elected by the people to make the laws. Our job is to interpret the laws,” Rush said.
Daniels also noted that one of the reasons he chose Rush was her respect for the meaning of words as written. This is generally known as being a strict constructionist when analyzing constitutional or statutory law.
In her application, Rush also spoke of a 1998 break-in and attack at her Lafayette home that could have killed her husband and required Rush herself to undergo surgery.
The suspect, then 26, was a man Rush represented 12 years prior as a guardian ad litem. He was convicted of attempted murder and burglary.
The other two finalists for the position were Hamilton County Judge Steven Nation and Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter.