The Indiana Supreme Court is the highest appellate court in the state and the court of last resort on the interpretation of Indiana’s laws, its constitution, and the safeguards expressed in our state’s bill of rights.
Members of the Court
Today, the Court consists of five justices: one chief justice and four associate justices. The current members of the Court are Chief Justice Loretta H. Rush, Justice Steven H. David, Justice Mark S. Massa, Justice Geoffrey G. Slaughter, and Justice Christopher M. Goff.
Justices are chosen by a process known as “merit selection” that fosters input from citizens. To be eligible to serve on the Court, a person must have practiced law in Indiana at least ten years or have served at least five years as a trial court judge.
When a vacancy occurs, a 7-member Judicial Nominating Commission, comprised of attorneys and other citizens, recommends three qualified candidates to the Governor. The Governor then selects one as the new justice. The same Commission also selects one of the five to serve as chief justice for a five-year term.
After serving two years, the new justice is subject to a statewide retention vote. If a majority votes not to retain the justice, the selection process starts over. If the public votes in favor of retention, the justice begins a 10-year term and is subject to a statewide retention vote every ten years. Justices must retire at age 75.
Key Dates in Supreme Court History
|1800||Indiana Territorial Court established when the Northwest Territory was divided into two sections.|
|1816||Indiana attains statehood and creates a 3-member Supreme Court, which meets in the new capital of Corydon. The Court first sat in Corydon on May 5, 1817 and consisted of three judges appointed by the Governor to 7-year terms.|
|1825||The seat of state government was moved from Corydon to Indianapolis, and the Supreme Court begins its first term in the new State Capitol on May 2, 1825.|
|1850||The new state constitution requires the election of Supreme Court judges by the people and allows for up to five judges, who serve 6-year terms.|
|1853||The General Assembly increased to four members of the Court representing four geographic districts but elected by statewide ballot with terms beginning January 3, 1853.|
|1872||The Court’s caseload grew so much the General Assembly expanded the Court to five judges, the maximum allowed under the constitution.|
|1891||A temporary appellate court was created by the legislature to deliver justice more swiftly. It was made permanent in 1970 as the Court of Appeals of Indiana.|
|1970||A constitutional amendment significantly changed the organization of the judicial branch and established the title of “justice.” Election of appellate judges was eliminated and replaced with an appointment/retention system.|
The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction in the following areas:
- Admission to the practice of law
- Discipline and disbarment of attorneys
- Unauthorized practice of law
- Discipline, removal, and retirement of justices and judges
- Supervision of the exercise of jurisdiction by other courts and issuance of writs necessary in aid of its jurisdiction
The Supreme Court also directly reviews appeals involving judgments imposing a sentence of death or life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, appeals from the denial of post-conviction relief in which the sentence is death, appeals involving waiver of parental consent to abortion, appeals in which a state or federal statute has been declared unconstitutional, and appeals involving orders issued by lower courts mandating funds. In addition, the Supreme Court may review the decision of the Indiana Court of Appeals or the Indiana Tax Court.
Indiana’s Constitution gives the Supreme Court the important authority to deliver justice in the legal system through its opinions and orders. However, the modern Supreme Court is also responsible for a wide array of tasks and programs. See details on the Office of Judicial Administration