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Dickson Chosen To Lead Indiana Supreme Court

A state panel has picked a new chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court.

The job goes to Brent Dickson, who has been acting chief justice since Randall Shepard retired in March. Shepard had held the post for 25 years.

The 70 year old Dickson is the longest-serving member of the five-member court. He was appointed by Republican Governor Robert Orr in 1986.

Dickson will be leading a court in transition. It is expected this fall to get its third new justice in less than two years after no turnover for more than a decade.

He was appointed by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission during a Tuesday meeting at which some court members endorsed Dickson for the top job.

(Information for this story also came from the Associated Press)

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Massa Formally Takes Seat on Indiana Supreme Court

Indiana’s newest Supreme Court justice has been formally seated on the bench.

Mark Massa was publicly sworn in today in the high court chambers. He was appointed by Governor Mitch Daniels to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Chief Justice Randall Shepard.

Massa is the 107th person to serve on the Indiana Supreme Court.

“I cannot promise you that I or that we will always be successful in finding the right outcome,” Massa said in a speech, paraphrasing a quote from Mother Teresa. “But we will be faithful. Faithful to the rule of law, faithful to the principles of equal justice, faithful to a promise of patient and civil treatment of lawyers and litigants.”

The 51 year old Massa is a former state and federal prosecutor and one-time general counsel to Daniels, who said that relationship had little bearing on the appointment.

“You fully justified this choice,” Daniels told Massa. “And I would have made it and probably made it more quickly if I had never met you before in my life.”

Massa was chosen from a list of finalists compiled by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission. Next week the panel will elect a new chief justice.

It also has begun the search for a successor to Justice Frank Sullivan, who’s leaving the court this fall.

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Local News Politics

Former Indiana Elections Chief’s Law License Suspended

The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended former Secretary of State Charlie White’s license on an interim basis because of his felony convictions earlier this year.

White was found guilty in February of vote fraud, perjury and theft stemming from his voter registration for the 2010 Republican primary.

He was sentenced to a year of home detention and forced to step down as secretary of state. He has said he plans to appeal his convictions.

The law license suspension is effective May 10th.

(Information for this story came from the Associated Press)

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Sullivan Leaving Indiana Supreme Court

Indiana Supreme Court Justice Frank Sullivan says he’ll leave the court after 19 years to join the faculty at Indiana University’s law school in Indianapolis.

His departure follows the retirement last month of Chief Justice Randall Shepard.

Sullivan was appointed to the five-member court in 1993 by Democratic Governor Evan Bayh.

Current Governor Mitch Daniels, a Republican, will select Sullivan’s replacement from candidates selected by the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission.

Sullivan says he’ll remain on the high court until the start of the law school’s fall semester.

(Information for this story came from the Associated Press)

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Massa Sworn In As Indiana’s 107th Supreme Court Justice

From the Associated Press

The newest member of the Indiana Supreme Court has been sworn into office.

The court says Mark Massa took the oath to become Indiana’s 107th Supreme Court justice during a private ceremony this morning. He was sworn in by the man he is replacing on the court, former Chief Justice Randall Shepard.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels picked Massa last month to fill the vacancy created by Shepard’s retirement. The 51-year-old Massa was chief counsel to Daniels in the governor’s office from 2006 to 2010.

The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission will select a new chief justice from among the court’s five members.

It will be a while before Massa officially wears his Supreme Court robe since the court doesn’t have any oral arguments scheduled until April 20.

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Daniels Appoints Former Counsel to Indiana High Court

From the Associated Press

Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels has appointed his former official counsel to a vacancy on the state Supreme Court.

Daniels named 50-year-old Mark Massa to fill the seat left vacant by the retirement of Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

Massa is a former newspaper reporter who currently serves as executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. He was Daniels’ chief counsel from 2006 to 2010 and also worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and as a Marion County deputy prosecutor.

Shepard is retiring after 27 years on the court. The judicial commission will select the new chief justice from among the Supreme Court’s five justices.

Massa was chosen from three finalists for the vacancy.

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Indiana High Court Says Daniels Can Appoint White’s Successor

From the Associated Press:

The Indiana Supreme Court has cleared the way for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels to appoint ousted Secretary of State Charlie White’s replacement, dashing Democrats’ hopes of taking the politically powerful statewide office.

The court voted unanimously today to overturn a Marion County judge’s decision ordering the state recount commission to certify 2010 runner-up Vop Osili as the state’s top elections official.

Democrats argued that White’s candidacy was invalid because he was improperly registered to vote. They said his Feb. 4 conviction on voter fraud charges proved their point.

The commission contended that the criminal case and the civil case were unrelated and the court should not overturn an election. It argued that since White was removed from office for a conviction, he should be replaced by the governor.

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Local News Politics

Indiana House Approves Use-of-Force Bill

From the Associated Press:

The Indiana House has approved a bill laying out when people are justified in using force against police officers.

The House voted 74-24 Thursday in favor of the bill that’s a response to the public uproar over a state Supreme Court ruling that residents could not resist officers even during an illegal entry.

The measure specifies residents are protected by the state’s self-defense law if they reasonably believe force is necessary to protect themselves from unlawful actions by an officer.

Supporters say the proposal strengthens the rights of homeowners while also making clear that anyone who is committing a crime isn’t justified in using force against an officer.

Opponents argued the legislature shouldn’t give people justification for attacking officers. The House and Senate must still agree on a final version.

In other legislative action Thursday, the Indiana Senate gave final approval to a plan to require inspections of temporary outdoor stages like the one that collapsed at last year’s Indiana State Fair, killing seven people. The measure is now headed to Gov. Mitch Daniels.

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Local News Politics

Indiana High Court Hears Arguments in SOS Succession Dispute

From the Associated Press:

Indiana Supreme Court justices peppered both sides with pointed questions during arguments to determine whether ousted Secretary of State Charlie White was ever a legal candidate for the office.

Most of the questions during today’s hour-long hearing centered on state laws regarding voter registration and the requirements for the secretary of state’s office. The justices posed several hypothetical questions about how White’s situation might be applied to ordinary voters who live in one place and vote in another.

At issue is a court order mandating that the state recount commission certify Democratic runner-up Vop Osili the winner of the 2010 election because White’s candidacy was invalid. White was removed from office this month after being convicted of voter fraud.

The state argues the governor should appoint White’s successor.

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Local News Politics

Indiana Supreme Court To Hear Arguments Over SOS Vacancy

The dispute over who should finish the term of ousted Indiana Secretary of State Charlie White moves to the Indiana Supreme Court this week.

White can no longer serve as secretary of state following his conviction and sentencing for voter fraud and other felonies.

State Democrats and Republicans are at odds over who should finish White’s four year term as the state’s chief elections officer.

Democrats say it should be Vop Osili, their candidate who lost to White in the 2010 general election. A circuit judge has upheld their claim that White was never eligible to hold the office because he lied about his residence on a voter registration form.

Republicans say state law allows Governor Mitch Daniels to name White’s replacement.

Daniels appointed White’s chief deputy, Jerry Bonnet, to serve as interim secretary until the high court issues a ruling. The court will hear arguments on Wednesday

Charlie White was sentenced to a year of home detention for his felony offenses. The sentence has been postponed until White’s appeal is heard.