Indiana will have its first female Supreme Court justice in 13 years – and only the second in the state's history.
Gov. Mitch Daniels announced Friday that he was appointing Tippecanoe County juvenile court judge Loretta Hogan Rush to the state's highest court.
"In studying Judge Rush's stellar legal and judicial career, hearing from a diverse multitude of her admirers and observing her firsthand as she helped us bring reform and improvement to Indiana's child welfare system, I concluded she is the best choice among a strong set of finalists," Daniels said in making the announcement.
To get the nod, Rush had to emerge from a group of three finalists. The other two were men, Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter and Hamilton County Superior Court Judge Steven Nation.
Rush becomes the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court since Myra Selby left the bench in 1999. Selby remained the only woman to have served on the state's highest court for more than a decade – and through two previous Supreme Court appointments Daniels made.
Women's rights groups, attorneys and lawmakers lobbied Daniels to appoint a woman.
Before Rush's appointment, Indiana was one of only three states to have an all-male Supreme Court.
Daniels said that gender didn't play a role in his decision.
"I would not want it to diminish at all the stellar preparation of Judge Rush," he said. "I wouldn't want anyone to think that that was really a necessary factor here. I do believe she was the clearly best available choice."
Rush, 54, said she was thrilled to be chosen – and joked that she might have shattered the governor's ear drum with her shriek of joy when he called to offer her the position.
"I hope your hearing has come back to your left ear. I gave him a very excited yes," Rush said.
Daniels confirmed that excitement.
"I think there was an 'eek' before the 'yes,'" he said.
Rush said that she valued judicial restraint and that she considered U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to be her role model for judicial conduct.
A graduate of Purdue University and Indiana University's Maurer School of Law, Rush began her legal career with the Lafayette law firm of Reiling, Teder, Withered and Rush, where she worked with Indiana Chief Justice Brent Dickson.
She was elected to the bench in Tippecanoe County in 1998. Her court focused on juvenile issues and she became chair of the Indiana Juvenile Justice Improvement Committee.
She said that a 1998 attack by a 27-year-old former juvenile client on her and her family helped shape her interest in and focus on juvenile issues.
She and her husband, Jim Rush, have four children ranging in age from 10 to 25.
The Supreme Court will determine a date for her robing ceremony.
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