Finally. That was the word uttered time and again, with an exclamation point for emphasis, late last week when Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels announced he’d picked a woman to sit on what’s been the all-male Indiana Supreme Court.
Daniels’ decision to appoint Tippecanoe County Judge Loretta Rush to the state’s high court is history-making for a state with a big gender gap in its judiciary. Rush is only the second woman to sit on the court in its nearly 200-year history.
Much has been and will be made of the fact that Rush is a woman. There should be. There is disproportionately low number of women on the bench in our lower courts as well: Only about 20 percent of the state trial court judges are women.
But just as Daniels’ prior two selections for the top court – Mark Massa and Steve David – are more than just their gender, Rush should be noteworthy for her work as well.
Those who know her best praise her for her work as a juvenile court judge who has called on her community to help their most vulnerable and the most troubled children. She’s reached out to schools, churches, community and business groups — to anyone she could find — to make the case that it’s a shared responsibility to make sure no child is left behind.
Her “judicial activism” — in the best sense of the phrase — is even more compelling given a harrowing personal experience. In November 1998, a deeply troubled young man kicked open the door of her home and tried to kill her husband. She sustained injuries while protecting the couple’s three children.
Rush knew the assailant: A decade earlier, as a lawyer in private practice, she was appointed by the court to act as his legal advocate — what’s called a guardian ad litem. At the time, he was only 14 but had suffered through a lifetime of misery — a ward of the court since the age of two, followed by years of failed placements in homes and mental health facilities. He ended up spending the last part of his teenage years incarcerated.
In her application to be considered for Indiana Supreme Court, Rush cited that experience as one of the most significant legal matters ever entrusted to her.
Here is some of what she wrote about how that searing experience shaped her later role as a judge: “I look at the children that find themselves in our court system and understand the long-standing toll such things as child abuse, neglect and untreated mental health can have on their adult lives. …
“I look at all the parties and participants involved with any case, appreciate what they bring into the courtroom and understand that it is often difficult and intimidating for witnesses and participants to testify before us as judges. I learned that mentors and volunteers working with the juvenile courts are critical. …
“Finally,” she added, “my family’s ordeal heightened my resolve that our judicial system must always strive to earn the trust of the public and remain sensitive to, and protect the rights of all that come before us.”
Those words seem more insightful than just saying that our newest justice is a woman.
Maureen Hayden is the Indiana Statehouse bureau chief for CNHI, the parent company of the Tribune-Star.
She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Local & Bistate
Vigo County Jail Log: May 21, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Monday and Tuesday, based on jail records.
UPDATE: Damage surveys show 2 weak tornadoes hit near Indy
INDIANAPOLIS — The National Weather Service says storm surveys show two weak tornadoes struck central Indiana.
Storm causes scattered Indiana power outages
INDIANAPOLIS — A line of thunderstorms that moved across Indiana caused scattered building damage and power outages for several thousand homes and businesses.
Kindergartner diagnosed with MD treated to a day with the fire department
“He’ll just never forget this day,” Stacey Manley said, a little bit tearfully, as she watched her smiling 6-year-old son Carter sitting happily in the captain’s seat of Fire Engine 2.
Casey, Illinois aims for another world record
The town of Casey, Ill., may soon weave its way into the record books as the small town with the most world records. After setting records for the world’s largest wind chimes and the world’s largest golf tee, Casey is now looking to become home to the world’s largest knitting needles and crochet hook.
Rose-Hulman projects will promote growth, learning for people with physical challenges
Life changed dramatically for college engineering student Drew Christy on Feb. 22, 2008 when he was involved in an auto accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury.
‘500’ gas stations being sold to Speedway LLC
After several decades in business, the area’s familiar “500” gasoline stations and convenience stores will soon be missing from the roadsides of Vigo and Sullivan counties.
Terre Haute woman faces 14 charges
A Terre Haute woman faces 14 criminal counts after her arrest Friday on drug-related charges.
Two adults injured in ATV accident
Two adults were injured Sunday evening while riding an all-terrain vehicle near Lexington Farms Subdivision off Moyer Drive in southern Vigo County.
Vigo schools’ medical claims down 4 percent
The Vigo County School Corp.’s medical claims were about $13 million over the last 12 months, down 4 percent from the prior year, said Diane Titchenell, an Anthem account manager that works with the school district.
2013 Government Directory now available
The 2013 Government Directory is now available.
UPDATE: 5 killed, 6 injured in I-70 van crash in Illinois
ST. LOUIS — A van carrying church members returning from a California gathering careened off of a southern Illinois freeway and overturned several times today, killing five people and sending six others to hospitals, authorities said.
2 children reported dead from Indianapolis fire
INDIANAPOLIS — Authorities say some autistic children lived in the Indianapolis condominium unit where a fire has killed two children.
Tighter Indiana drunken driving law seems unlikely
INDIANAPOLIS — Some key Indiana legislators say it’s unlikely that the state will any time soon go along with a federal safety board’s recommendation that the threshold for drunken driving be cut nearly in half.
Vigo County Jail Log: May 20, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday, based on jail records.
Life-Size Ping Pong: Valley pickleball tourney draws large crowd to Brittlebank Park
It’s been described as “ping pong on steroids.”
Some people call it “life-size ping pong where you stand on the table.”
Boat trip aims to raise awareness about Lewy Body Dementia
In 2013, the Year of the River, it makes sense to link a grand adventure on the Wabash River with a good cause.
Legislature had little taste for alcohol bills
When it comes to alcohol, the 2013 legislative session may be marked more by what it didn’t do to boost booze sales than what it did.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Is it regulation that doesn’t make sense or evening the playing field?
I’m not much of a drinker, so I haven’t spent much time thinking about how Indiana’s alcohol laws personally impact me, but that changed last fall when my daughter got married.
RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS: April 29-May 3
The Vigo County Health Department inspected the following food establishments April 29-May 3:
For Piper: Annual ‘Rush the Punter’ event dedicated to Dixie Bee student who died Wednesday after a short illness
Steve Weatherford’s “Rush the Punter” fundraiser at Fairbanks Park on Saturday was dedicated to a little girl who lost her life unexpectedly to pneumonia.
Vigo schools prepare to tighten belts
State funding for the Vigo County School Corp. will remain “pretty flat” for the next two years, said Donna Wilson, chief financial officer.
Veterans take to the trees
Cristal Bednar took photos of her husband, Justin, as he laboriously climbed his way up a “Dangle-Duo” to get to a zipline at Indiana State University’s Sycamore Outdoor Center.
Property owner seeks halt to Hulman Lake dam project
A Terre Haute property owner is seeking an injunction that would at least temporarily halt the city’s work on the Hulman Lake dam project.
Tornado veterans balance preparedness, practicality
Few things in nature are less predictable than a tornado. They can form quickly. They strike weirdly, leveling one building while leaving its neighbor untouched. They can fling a car a half-mile and turn a piece of lumber into a wall-piercing missile.
ISU unveils interactive Bayh Family Legacy Wall at school
A who’s who of Indiana Democrats paid tribute to Evan Bayh and several generations of the Bayh family Friday during a dedication of a new interactive display at Indiana State University.
Can you smell me now?
A contraband cell phone has been discovered by the Vigo County Jail’s youngest and most unique officer.
GIVING BACK: Steve Weatherford buys shoes for kids day before charity run
Terre Haute’s Steve Weatherford, punter for the 2012 Super Bowl champion New York Giants, showed once again his generosity Friday by donating new athletic shoes to more than two dozen Vigo County kids.
N.Y. Giants honor Weatherford as ‘Man of the Year’
Dan Tanoos, superintendent of Vigo County schools, remembers the first time he saw Steve Weatherford as a freshman at Terre Haute North Vigo High School.
Sunday recital at The Woods
A recital featuring songs from well-known composers is at 7 p.m. Sunday in the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Vigo County Jail Log: May 21, 2013