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Justice Mark Massa

Mark Massa

INDIANAPOLIS | Gov. Mitch Daniels has appointed Mark Massa, his former general counsel and a former federal and county prosecutor, to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Massa, 51, replaces Chief Justice Randall Shepard, who retired Friday after 27 years on the state's high court, including 25 as chief justice.

"Trying to find a replacement for Randy Shepard was a sobering and challenging experience, but I'm very happy to tell you that I think we've got a superb choice for that job in Mark Massa," Daniels said.

Massa said he's still getting used to the idea of looking in the mirror and seeing a Supreme Court justice looking back.

"This is a sobering responsibility and an honor that is really beyond words," Massa said. "I am so humbled by it and so grateful for the opportunity."

The new justice described his philosophy as "reasoned judgment based on precedent, the plain meaning of Constitutional provisions and Indiana statutes, and where it's not plain on its face, an effort to go behind it and try to determine the intent of the people who wrote it and apply that to the facts."

Massa graduated from Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis in 1989 and was Shepard's law clerk from 1991 to 1993. He served several stints in the Marion County prosecutor's office and the U.S. attorney's office, in addition to working as the governor's attorney from 2006 to 2010. 

In 2010, Massa ran an unsuccessful campaign as the Republican candidate for Marion County Prosecutor.

The two other finalists for the Supreme Court post were Judge Cale Bradford of the Indiana Court of Appeals and Jane Seigel, director of the Indiana Judicial Center, who lived in Hammond for seven years as a child.

Daniels' selection of Massa leaves Indiana as one of three states, along with Iowa and Idaho, without a female on their highest court.

The Republican governor said he tries to appoint women to state offices whenever possible, but gender "does not trump the need to get the very person available ... and in this case I'm 100 percent certain that I've chosen the best of those three," he said.

Even though Massa is replacing the chief justice, he is not automatically chief. The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission will select a new chief justice from among the Supreme Court's five justices in the next few months.

In the interim, Justice Brent Dickson, who was born in Gary and grew up in Hobart, will be acting chief justice by virtue of having the longest tenure on the Supreme Court.