Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson will leave that role this summer but remain an associate justice, continuing four years of transition for the state's highest court, it announced Wednesday.
Dickson informed other members of the Judicial Nominating Commission he expects to step down sometime before Sept. 1 and be succeeded by one of the four associate justices: Robert Rucker, Steven David, Mark Massa and Loretta Rush.
"Knowing that my tenure as Chief Justice was limited, each Associate Justice has actively participated in much of the administrative responsibilities and decisions of the office of Chief Justice," Dickson said in a prepared statement. "The time is right for this transition. The Court and state will be well served when one of my colleagues is selected as the next Chief Justice."
The commission, which Dickson chairs, said it plans to invite the four associate justices to meet with it on Aug. 6 to discuss the chief justice vacancy in a session open to the public. The commission then will meet privately to select the next chief justice for a five-year term.
Rucker joined the court in 1999, but each of the others has no more than four years' experience on the Supreme Court. Former Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed David to the bench in 2010 and Massa and Rush in 2012.
Also in 2012, Dickson succeeded Randall Shepard as chief justice. "Dickson had been urged to accept the position to provide stability and continuity to the judicial branch," the court said in a news release.
Under Dickson's leadership, the court last year created a statewide commission aimed at improving the availability of civil legal services for low-income residents. It announced last month that lawyers will be able to file documents electronically to courts throughout the state beginning next year, starting a phase-out of two centuries of paper filings.
One of the court's most important recent rulings was a 3-2 split last year to over fines levied by Indiana House Republicans against Democratic lawmakers for their 2011 walkout and 2012 boycotts in a series of bitterly partisan fights. Dickson wrote the majority opinion for the ruling allowing the fines to stand because he said the court didn't have the constitutional power to intervene in internal legislative decisions.
The former general practice lawyer in Lafayette has served on the court since 1986 and faces mandatory retirement when he turns 75 in 2016.
"I am looking forward to being able to spend most of my time in legal research, deciding cases, and writing opinions," Dickson said.
Gov. Mike Pence issued a statement saying Dickson "has brought his outstanding legal expertise and practical judgment to bear throughout his 28 years as a member of the court."
"I applaud his long-standing commitment to public service in the legal system and look forward to his continued wisdom as he remains on the court," Pence said.
Besides Dickson, the seven-member Judicial Nominating Commission is made up of three attorneys elected by their peers and three appointees, two by Pence and one by Daniels.