From its inception in 1816 until 2010, one woman and 105 men have been members of the Indiana Supreme Court. In Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court a multiauthor volume edited by Linda C. Gugin and James E. St. Clair and featuring an introduction by Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts, authors explore the lives of each justice, unearthing not only standard biographical information but also personal stories that offer additional insight into their lives and times. The book was published by the IHS Press in cooperation with the Indiana Supreme Court.
In the early days of Indiana statehood, the men who served on the Court often learned their profession by studying in the office of a trained lawyer and began their career as judges by “riding the circuit.” Over the years, the Court has been home to an eclectic group of justices, including a novelist who attempted to have copies of his work destroyed because the “morals of the book were not suitable for the minds of young people,” a judge whose collection of court cases became known worldwide, two men who served on the Nuremberg proceedings trying Nazi war criminals, and a jurist whose hobbies included photographing the Indianapolis 500.
Today’s Court is quite different from the state’s first Supreme Court established when Indiana joined the Union as the nineteenth state. Through the years the Court has grown from three members to five and what had begun as an appointed body by the governor with “advice and consent” of the Indiana Senate became election of judges by voters thanks to the 1851 Indiana Constitution. In 1970 Hoosier voters approved an amendment to the constitution passed by the Indiana General Assembly that replaced partisan elections with a merit-based system of gubernatorial appointment checked with nonpartisan retention elections.
As the editors note, the 1970 amendment also altered the way the Court selected its chief justice. In its early years, Court members had the authority to pick a chief justice. Later, the position was rotated among the members by the district they represented. Thanks to the amendment, today a Judicial Nominating Commission elects the chief justice, now called the Chief Justice of Indiana, from among the sitting justices. Since 1970 only three men have served as Chief Justice of Indiana—Norman F. Arterburn (1972 to 1974), Richard M. Givan (1974 to 1987), and Randall T. Shepard (1987 to present).
Linda C. Gugin is an emeriti professor of political science at Indiana University Southeast, and James E. St. Clair is professor of journalism at IU Southeast. The two were coeditors of the Indiana Historical Society Press book The Governors of Indiana (2006), and cowrote the books Sherman Minton: New Deal Senator, Cold War Justice and Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson of Kentucky: A Political Biography.
The Justices of the Indiana Supreme Court costs $37.95 and is available from the IHS's History Market.