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Indiana Supreme Court back to work with new leader

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The Indiana Supreme Court will return to work this week with a new leader for the first time in 25 years.

When the court next hears oral arguments on Wednesday, Brent Dickson will preside as the acting chief justice following the retirement of longtime Chief Justice Randall Shepard. Dickson, 70, takes over the top judge spot as the longest-serving justice until the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission picks a new chief justice from among the court's five members.

Dickson, who grew up in northwestern Indiana's Hobart, was an attorney in Lafayette when Republican Gov. Robert Orr appointed him to the Supreme Court in 1986.

Dickson's work on the Supreme Court has included rulings that led to a complete restructuring of Indiana's property-tax system, The Times of Munster reported.

Lake County Judge John Pera said Dickson has led efforts to reform jury service, improve court technology and better the relationship between trial court judges and the appellate courts.

"I know that under his leadership the court is going to be held in high esteem throughout the state," Pera said.

Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels on Friday named Mark Massa to fill the vacancy created by Shepard's retirement. Massa, 50, was chief counsel to Daniels in the governor's office from 2006 to 2010, when he resigned for an unsuccessful run as the Republican candidate for Marion County prosecutor.

A date hasn't yet been set for when Massa will formally join the Supreme Court, which will conduct its work with four justices until then, court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said Monday.

Shepard, 65, isn't completely retiring after 27 years at the Supreme Court — all but two years as chief justice. He will tackle occasional cases as a senior judge on the Indiana Court of Appeals and maintain an office across the street from the Statehouse, the Evansville Courier & Press reported.

Shepard said his plans include teaching law school classes, possibly at Indiana University and his law school alma mater, Yale University, along with traveling to Bloomington to work on the Indiana Magazine of History ahead of the state's bicentennial in 2016 and serving on national judicial groups.

"Part of the motivation for leaving when I am leaving is that I'm still young enough and healthy enough to try some other things," he said, "and experience new places and projects and people — not retiring, so to speak."

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