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Chief justice keeping seat a little longer


Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard’s term officially ended Sunday.

But he is still Indiana chief justice.

The chief justice is appointed for a five-year-term and can be reappointed. His fifth term expired March 4.

But when he announced his retirement last December, he simply said he would step down from the court in March. At some later point, Shepard said March 23 would be his last day. He apparently wanted to keep some flexibility for the day he stepped off the bench.

Under the constitution, when a vacancy for chief justice occurs, the longest-serving justice on the court becomes acting chief justice – and that is Shepard.

On March 23, Brent Dickson will become acting chief justice until the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission names a new top judge.

With Shepard on the court for three more weeks, he will most likely have a role in the court’s decision on the Charlie White case. But he may be off the court before it rules on the issue of fining legislators over walkouts.

Lugar under fire

The Weekly Standard is a major voice of conservatives, and it is not shy in attacking Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar.

The headline in this week’s magazine article sums it up: “The Bell Tolls for Lugar: Add Indiana’s senior senator to the list of endangered incumbents.”

After discussing Lugar’s residency issue and his support for earmarks, writer Kenneth Tomlinson reports “the list of organizations that have endorsed (Lugar opponent Richard) Mourdock reads like a Who’s Who of American conservatism. But arguably the biggest shoe is about to drop with the expectation that the National Rifle Association will shortly come out for Mourdock.”

Lugar’s friends

With opposition like that, it’s no wonder Lugar’s campaign is quick to mention local officials who support the senior senator. But how much weight will some of those endorsements carry?

“New Haven Mayor McDonald Endorses Sen. Lugar” was the headline on a campaign news release last week. Granted, that endorsement may mean little in the rest of the state, but it could sway a few votes in New Haven, where Terry McDonald is now in his fourth consecutive term.

But the one that came later in the day is a bit of a stretch: “Former Carmel Mayor Dottie Hancock today added her name to a growing list of Republican officials supporting Sen. Dick Lugar’s 2012 re-election in Indiana.” The news release goes on to name other former mayors who support Lugar, including Ernest Wiggins of Warsaw and Bruce Hosier of Portland.

Good politics or desperation?

Smoking signals

Though Senate President Pro Tem David Long has said a statewide smoking ban will not pass the Senate without an exemption for bars, the four members of the conference committee that will draft the final language are all supporters of a tougher ban with fewer exemptions. They are State Reps. P. Eric Turner (R) and Charlie Brown (D); and Sens. Beverly Gard (R) and Vi Simpson (D).

Tracy Warner, editorial page editor, has worked at The Journal Gazette since 1981. He can be reached at 461-8113 or by email,