Judges, attorneys, many former law clerks and others honored retiring Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard on Monday, praising his ongoing commitment to the state and leadership in its legal community.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, a college friend who has known Shepard "since the only robes he was wearing were togas," told the crowd in the courtroom it would be hard for him to imagine the state judicial system without Shepard.
"There are people on the highest courts in this land that are not his equal," Daniels said.
Shepard, 65, is the longest serving state chief justice in the nation. He was appointed in 1985 by then-Gov. Robert Orr and became chief justice two years later. He announced his retirement in December and will officially leave the bench Friday.
Three finalists have been selected as possible replacements.
Before his appointment to the court, Shepard served as a Vanderburgh Superior Court judge in his hometown of Evansville.
His writings have been cited in textbooks and journals and even by the U.S. Supreme Court, the state Supreme Court said when announcing his retirement. He may be especially remembered, however, for his efforts to modernize Indiana's court system and improve the way it does business. Under Shepard, the court began webcasting all of its oral arguments and issued new jury instructions in plain English to make the law easier for jurors to understand.
He graduated from Princeton in 1969 and received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1972. In 1995, he received a master's degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. He and his wife, Amy W. MacDonell, have one daughter.
Shepard will take on several projects following his retirement, including a visiting professorship at the University of Cincinnati and a senior position with the Indiana Court of Appeals. He thanked the crowd, saying his accomplishments were joint efforts and he believed that the legal profession would continue to push for reform.
"I leave with full confidence that the great machine will move ahead inexorably," he said.
American Bar Association President William Robinson said Shepard, who has written hundreds of legal opinions and dozens of law review articles, will always be respected for his work ethic and consistent excellence.
"The law is his passion," Robinson said. "The legal profession is his calling."