Justice Sullivan to leave Indiana Supreme Court to become law school faculty

Gov. Mitch Daniels will get his third high-court appointment

By Lesley Weidenbener
The Statehouse File

INDIANAPOLIS – Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. will leave the Indiana Supreme Court and take a position on the faculty of Indiana University’s law school, a move that will give Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels his third appointment to the five-member court.

Justice Frank Sullivan said Monday that he will leave the Indiana Supreme Court and take a position with the Indiana University law school. Sullivan said he would be thrilled if the justice who takes his place is a woman. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, The Statehouse File.

Sullivan, 62, has served on the Supreme Court since 1993, when he was appointed by then-Gov. Evan Bayh, a Democrat.

Sullivan said he hopes he will be remembered as a part of a court that acted not out partisanship or political interests but made decisions based on the law. No one on Indiana’s court is expected to have a set position on any case at any time, he said.

“That’s the single most gratifying thing,” Sullivan said. He also said the state’s system for choosing justices “lifts up raging moderates. Each of us are free to find our own way in each case.”

Sullivan’s resignation will be effective before Aug. 22, the day classes start at the Robert H. McKinney School of Law. But his last day has not been set and neither have deadlines in the process for replacing him.

Eventually, the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission will accept applications and interview interested attorneys before selecting three finalists to forward to Daniels, who will make the appointment.

There will be increased pressure for Daniels to appoint a woman. Indiana is one of just three states without a woman on its Supreme Court and the governor has passed up female finalists to appoint Justice Steven David in 2010 and Justice Mark Massa, who was sworn in Monday.

Sullivan said no one – save maybe his wife – would be more delighted for Daniels to choose a woman as his replacement. But he said that requires strong, female candidates to apply. The governor “can’t appoint someone who doesn’t apply,” he said.

Sullivan urged the Judicial Nominating Commission to take more time to accept and consider applicants. He said the processes that resulted in the appointments of Massa and David occurred so quickly that qualified women may have either been discouraged from applying or disheartened to have been cast aside in the process so quickly.

“I think our court would be better off with one or two or three women on it,” he said.

Daniels has said that he will appoint the most qualified attorneys to the court and he would be happy to appoint a woman. He has appointed one woman to the state’s appeals court and the a woman to serve as the state’s tax court judge.

Sullivan, meanwhile, said he is not thinking of his change as a retirement and said he knew he had to make a move if he was to do one more big thing in his long career. He said teaching seemed like an obvious choice and he reached out to Indiana University officials about joining the faculty.

Indiana University Law School Dean Gary Roberts made the announcement Monday.

“Having Frank Sullivan join our faculty is an exciting and extraordinary opportunity to bring in someone with a great mind and academic temperament to teach our students both theory and practice and to add to our scholarly culture,” Roberts said in a statement.

Sullivan said he will teach economics and business at the law school. Years ago, Sullivan practiced corporate finance and securities law in the Indianapolis office of Barnes & Thornburg, the state’s largest law firm.

Prior to his appointment to the court, Sullivan served as state Bayh’s state budget director and later as his executive assistant for fiscal policy. In the post, he directed the preparation of the Bayh administration’s budget proposals.

On the court, he has authored roughly 500 majority opinions addressing a wide range of criminal, civil, and tax law issues. Several of his decisions have been selected for publication in law school casebooks.

Justice Frank Sullivan said Monday that he will leave the Indiana Supreme Court - but he said it's not a retirement, just an opportunity to do something new. He'll be joining the faculty of the Indiana University law school. Photo by Lesley Weidenbener, The Statehouse File.

Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said Sullivan’s new post will continue “to build upon his legacy of service to the State of Indiana.”

“His unique understanding of state government, business and many other complex areas of law has added tremendously to the decisions of the Supreme Court and will be a remarkable asset to the law school in Indianapolis,” Zoeller said. “We can all thank Frank Sullivan for the advancements in the area of technology that will provide lasting benefits to our system of justice and all those it serves.”

Sullivan has led the Indiana Supreme Court’s efforts to move all of the state’s local and county courts onto the same computer management system. The Odyssey program gives the public access to court dockets in the 120 courts where it has been implemented. It also gives judges and other legal officials easier access to court records in other jurisdictions.

“This has been a big and very hard project,” Sullivan said. “But I leave with a very, very high degree of satisfaction and confidence” it will be finished.

Lesley Weidenbener is managing editor of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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One Response to Justice Sullivan to leave Indiana Supreme Court to become law school faculty

  1. A nominating committee just finished its work in selecting three names to give the governor for the appointment announced just days ago. Will another committee have to start all over again, or will the governor simply select one of the other two people chosen by this committee? It seems redundant to go through it all again so soon.
    J H Johnson