INDIANAPOLIS - Loretta Rush was formally sworn in Monday as Indiana's first female chief justice, but her gender hardly was mentioned during the ceremony.
"Quite simply, she was the best choice," Gov. Mike Pence told a crowd of onlookers and media crammed into the law library at the Statehouse shortly before he administered the oath of office to the 56-year-old former juvenile court judge.
Rush was selected Aug. 6 by the Judicial Nominating Commission to succeed Brent E. Dickson, who announced in June that he would step down as chief justice but remain an associate justice. He faces mandatory retirement when he turns 75 in 2016.
Rush, a former Tippecanoe County judge, was appointed to the high court by former Gov. Mitch Daniels in 2012. She's the first woman to serve on the court since Myra Selby stepped down in 1999 after five years on the bench.
Rush, wearing her black robe, recited the oath of office during a 25-minute ceremony as her 12-year-old son Luke Rush and husband of 32 years, Jim Rush, looked on. Asked afterward if he was proud of his mom, the seventh-grader said simply, "Yeah." Rush's three other grown children were unable to attend.
Rush drew praise not only for her performance on the bench, but off it, embracing new technologies and seeking to bring diversity to Indiana's judicial system.
"She is an innovator and comfortable with technology," Dickson said. Part of her role will be driving through a computerized case management system and pushing for electronic case filing. Rush said she also would push to make Indiana courts more transparent and to promote more pro bono work by attorneys.
The Supreme Court's chief justice does as much work outside the court as inside it, said former chief justice Randall T. Shepard, who left the court in 2012. "Things may not be as visible in Lafayette or Seymour, but it really matters," he said.
After the ceremony, Rush said local courts were the "heart and soul" of justice in the state.
"Everyone who stands outside the courtroom, when they go in, deserves fair treatment," she said.
Indiana justices are appointed to five-year terms before facing a retention vote.