State panel give Indiana's chief justice new 5-year term
INDIANAPOLIS -- The first female leader of Indiana's highest court is getting another five years in the job.
The state Judicial Nominating Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to keep Chief Justice Loretta Rush in the leadership position she's held since 2014.
Those commission members acted after the Indiana Supreme Court's four other justices - all men - said they supported Rush remaining as chief justice. They praised her leadership on issues such as helping local courts respond to the opioid addiction crisis and moving more county courts onto a common statewide online records system.
Rush was the only justice to express interest in the top position in the state's judicial system.
"It is the opportunity of a lifetime," Rush told the commission. "It's a great job."
Rush has encouraged county courts around the state faced with large caseloads stemming from opioid addiction-related crimes to direct more people toward drug treatment and job-training programs. But she said the opioid crisis caught Indiana's judicial system "flat-footed."
"We had been through an addiction crisis before, look at crack cocaine," Rush said. "We should've built a model for dealing with it and not waited until now."
Rush, 61, was first appointed to the court by Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2012 after 14 years as a Tippecanoe County judge in Lafayette. The judicial commission picked her as chief justice after Brent Dickson stepped down after two years, following Randall Shepard's 25-year tenure leading the court.
She joined the court during a time of turnover as all five current justices have now been appointed by Republican governors since 2010.
Indiana had 1,118 opioid-related deaths in 2017, the latest year for which state statistics are available. That was more than double the 499 opioid deaths reported two years earlier.
Rush said being prepared for such public health epidemics would continually be a challenge.
"You wonder what the next thing's going to be," she said. "There's going to be another drug after heroin."