INDIANAPOLIS — Gov. Mitch Daniels appointed Judge Loretta Rush to the bench of the Indiana Supreme Court on Friday — the first female appointee to the state's highest court in 13 years.
The appointment of the Tippecanoe County juvenile judge ends Indiana's distinction as one of only three states with all-male supreme courts, and makes Rush Indiana's first female justice since Myra Selby stepped down in 1999.
Rush said she shouted with joy when Daniels called Thursday 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 during the news conference in the governor's Statehouse office.
Rush is the third justice Daniels has appointed to the five-member court in the past two years. She replaces Justice Frank Sullivan who stepped down after 19 years.
Many attorneys, legislators and former justices had called on Daniels to appoint a woman to the court.
Daniels said he hasn't been oblivious to the lack of women on the court but that high-quality picks were his top priorities.
"I do believe she was clearly the best available choice and I'm totally comfortable with it," Daniels said.
Rush, 54, is a Republican who was born in Scranton, Pa., and moved to Indiana in 1976. After graduating from Purdue University in 1980, she washed dishes and did other jobs to work her way through the Indiana University School of Law.
In November 1998, before her first term as judge for the county that includes Lafayette, a 27-year-old former juvenile client kicked in the front door of her home and tried to kill her husband. Rush hid their children and tried to get help, but she and her husband both were injured and she later had to have surgery. The attacker was convicted of attempted murder and burglary.
"I look at the children that find themselves in our court system and see the long-standing toll that child abuse, neglect, and untreated mental health can have on their adult lives," Rush wrote in her application for the court seat.
Only three states — Idaho, Indiana, and Iowa — currently have no women on their court of last resort, according to the National Center for State Courts.
"As a woman, as a lawyer, and a Hoosier I am delighted that now the highest court in the land — Indiana — will be representative of the state of Indiana," said Indianapolis attorney Karen Celestino-Horseman. "The three candidates were excellent, but given that there was no woman on the court, it was time."
The other two finalists picked by the state judicial nominating commission were men — Hamilton County Judge Steven Nation and Indianapolis attorney Geoffrey Slaughter.