Justice Robert Rucker, the Indiana Supreme Court's only black justice and its sole remaining Democratic appointee, plans to retire this year after 18 years on the court.
Chief Justice Loretta Rush announced Rucker's upcoming retirement Wednesday during her annual State of the Judiciary address, but didn't specify when Rucker, who turns 70 on Thursday, will step down. The court said the retirement would occur in the spring, but no date had been determined.
Rush praised Rucker for his "long, faithful, and conscientious service" to Indiana and said he would hear one of his final arguments with the court's four other justices during a March 9 hearing at his alma mater, Gary Roosevelt High School.
Rucker was born in Canton, Georgia, but he grew up in Gary. The oldest of 11 children, he is a Vietnam veteran who was awarded a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for heroism.
Rucker was named to the bench in 1999 by former Gov. Frank O'Bannon, becoming only the court's second black justice. He filled a vacancy left by the retirement of Myra Selby, who was the first woman and African-American to serve on the high court.
A seven-member commission will search for a successor to fill Rucker's vacancy and recommend three finalists to Gov. Eric Holcomb, who will choose one of the finalists to succeed Rucker.
Once Rucker retires, the court will be left with five justices who have been appointed since 2010 by Republican governors.
Rush said Rucker, who served on the Indiana Court of Appeals from 1991 to 1999, had amassed 26 years of distinguished judicial service.
"Thirty-one appellate judges have had the honor of serving with this brilliant, collegial, and humble public servant. He has made all of us better," she said during her annual address before a joint session of the General Assembly.