Indiana Supreme Court and Law

Daniels names former counsel Massa to high court

March 23, 2012

A former newspaper reporter and top legal adviser to Gov. Mitch Daniels has been named to the Indiana Supreme Court.

Mark Massa, 50, was introduced Friday by Daniels, who filled a vacancy created by the retirement of Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard.

The court's newest justice serves as executive director of the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. He was Daniels' chief counsel from 2006 to 2010, when he resigned for an unsuccessful run for Marion County prosecutor. He also has worked as an assistant U.S. attorney and as a deputy prosecutor in Marion County.

He clerked for Shepard and worked as an aide to then-Gov. Robert Orr in the late 1980s, and had been a newspaper reporter in Evansville.

"He has seen the law from private and public sides. He is one of the finest prosecutors ever to come to the bench in this state," Daniels said of Massa.

Massa called his appointment "a sobering responsibility and an honor."

"It is really beyond words," he said.

Massa was one of three finalists for the vacancy. The others were Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Cale Bradford and Indianapolis attorney Jane Seigel.

Daniels said Massa's history as his official counsel hadn't given him any advantage.

"Obviously, I think very highly of Mark's talents. But in all honesty I think it operated against him. I may have underestimated how highly others thought of him," Daniels said.

He said he selected Massa in part for his belief in "judicial restraint ... and a disinclination to make law from the bench."

Massa said he believes that judges should look to the "plain meaning" of the state and federal constitutions, and only try to interpret the writers' intent when the meaning isn't apparent.

Joel Schumm, a professor at the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis who studies the state judiciary, said Massa was expected to be a "top contender" for the court vacancy since a judicial commission began reviewing the applications in January, due to his qualifications and his ties to Daniels and Shepard.

"If Mr. Massa is interested in being chief justice, he will have a strong shot at the position. The same Judicial Nominating Commission, which just named him as a finalist, will select the chief justice. The commission obviously knows and respects him," Schumm said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Attorney General Greg Zoeller praised Massa's appointment.

"Mark Massa has excellent credentials that he brings as the new justice. Mark is greatly respected in legal circles and follows in a long tradition of outstanding jurisprudence. I look forward to his continuing service to the state of Indiana," Zoeller said in a statement.

Massa is the second justice Daniels has appointed since taking office in 2004. He named Steven David, a decorated Army officer who once served as chief defense counsel for Guantanamo Bay detainees, to the bench in 2010 following the retirement of Justice Theodore Boehm.

Indiana has not had a female Supreme Court justice since Myra Selby stepped down in 1999 after five years on the bench.

Shepard's retirement was effective Friday after 27 years on the court. Though Massa fills the vacancy, a judicial commission will select the new chief justice from among the Supreme Court's five justices.

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