INDIANAPOLIS | Chief Justice Brent Dickson is stepping down as the state's top jurist, but will remain on the Indiana Supreme Court as an associate justice.
"It has been a great joy and a privilege to have helped continue the court’s tradition of excellence — especially with four hard-working colleagues who are devoted to the law," Dickson said in a statement Wednesday. "I am looking forward to being able to spend most of my time in legal research, deciding cases and writing opinions."
The Hobart native, who has served on the Supreme Court since 1986, was appointed to a five-year term as chief justice in 2012 following the retirement of Chief Justice Randall Shepard.
Dickson said given his own looming retirement — he is required by law to leave the bench when he turns 75 years old on July 18, 2016 — the time is right for the appointment of a new chief justice.
"Knowing that my tenure as chief justice was limited, each associate justice has actively participated in much of the administrative responsibilities and decisions of the office of chief justice," Dickson said. "The court and state will be well served when one of my colleagues is selected as the next chief justice."
The seven-member Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission, headed by Dickson and made up of three Hoosier attorneys elected by members of the bar and three citizens appointed by the governor, will select the next chief justice from the Supreme Court's four other members.
The commission is set to interview the justices Aug. 6 and likely will announce the new chief justice later that day.
Justice Robert Rucker, a Gary native, has the longest tenure among the four justices, having served since 1999. He'd also be the first African-American chief justice, though at age 67 he, too, soon will hit the court's mandatory retirement age.
Republican former Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed the three other justices: Steven David (2010), Mark Massa (2012) and Loretta Rush (2012). Hoosier voters still must decide at the Nov. 4 election whether to retain Massa and Rush on the court for another 10 years.
The chief justice is first among equals on the Indiana Supreme Court, but also administers state court programs and services, oversees attorney discipline and works with the legislative and executive branches to improve the state's judicial system.