Indiana's next state Supreme Court justice will complete the remaking of the bench, as all five justices will be white and will have been appointed since 2010 by Republican governors.
The state's Judicial Nominating Commission on Wednesday chose three finalists to succeed Justice Robert Rucker, who is retiring May 12. Once the names of the finalists — Judges Vicki Carmichael, Christopher Goff and Matthew Kincaid — are sent to Gov. Eric Holcomb, he'll have 60 days in which to choose one to succeed Rucker.
Here is some background on the finalists, Rucker and the court.
Carmichael, 54, has been a Clark Circuit Court judge in the Ohio River county just north of Louisville, Kentucky, since 2007. She would be the high court's third female justice ever, including its current chief justice, Loretta Rush. Carmichael, who's married and has an adult daughter in college, was a city court judge in Jeffersonville for six years before becoming a county judge. Unlike the other two finalists, who are Republicans, Carmichael is a Democrat. She previously was in private practice and served as a public defender. She's a graduate of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville.
Goff, who turns 45 on Tuesday, has served as a Wabash Superior Court judge since 2005. In his application for the high court seat, he wrote that the courts in Wabash County, located in northeastern Indiana, are among the state's busiest based on the number of cases assigned to each judge. Goff, who is married and has two daughters, previously worked in private practice. He's a graduate of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law.
Kincaid, 46, has been a Boone Superior Court judge in the county just northwest of Indianapolis since 2003. Like the other finalists, before becoming a judge he was a lawyer in a private practice. This is Kincaid's second time as a finalist for the state Supreme Court. The Judicial Nominating Commission also selected him last year as one of three finalists to succeed Justice Brent Dickson. Then-Gov. Mike Pence chose Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter for that vacancy. Kincaid, who is married with three children, is a graduate of the Loyola University of Chicago School of Law.
Rucker, 70, announced in January that he would retire this spring, five years before reaching the court's mandatory retirement age. His last day on the bench is May 12. Rucker was named to the bench in 1999 by Democratic Gov. Frank O'Bannon, becoming only its second black justice ever. His departure will leave the court with only white justices, and all three finalists for his vacancy are white. Rucker is the court's only remaining Democratic appointee.
INDIANA'S REVAMPED COURT:
When Rucker's replacement is named, all five members of the state's highest court will have been appointed by Republican governors. Indiana University law professor Joel Schumm said that's the first time that's happened since Indiana voters approved a constitutional amendment in 1970 creating a commission to pick finalists for the governor to choose from. He said he doesn't think the change will be particularly significant because Indiana justices have a long tradition of not being politically ideological in their rulings. The governor's pick will join Rush, Justice Steven David, Justice Mark Massa and Justice Geoffrey Slaughter on the court. Given the ages of the justices, Schumm says they could be together on the court for about 15 years.