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Retiring Indiana chief justice celebrated at ceremony

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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."

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  • Power Grab
    I too wish Justice Shepard well in his retirement from the Supreme Court bench. As a Hoosier software business that has had to compete against the Indiana Supreme Court, I hope Justice Shepard’s successor does not want to continue Justice Shepard’s desire to monopolize court technology in Indiana which has cost Hoosier over $75 Million to date. We have a system of blind justice in this state and country and only court cases properly appealed to the Supreme Court should be with the Supreme Court. This is not the situation today as the Indiana Supreme Court has a central repository of court cases including confidential court information that has not been appealed to them and this central repository is accessible over the internet (hacker target?). Justice Shepard also wishes to remove court record keeping that is by statute the responsibility of the locally elected Clerk of Circuit Court. The Clerk is the only check and balance to the judiciary and Justice Shepard’s power grab over court record keeping will and should invite concern of the integrity of the court record keeping. Monopolies also drive up costs and retards innovation. The continued drive to a monopoly over court technology by the Indiana Supreme Court and their Odyssey court software has done exactly this. Maybe now is the time for a change of direction.
  • Justice Shepard
    What a great leader - the issue he was most passionate about was increasing salaries for judges. He was just another pol who fed too long at the public trough.

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