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Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Ind. Courts - Prof. Schumm's report of Justice Massa's interview

Justice Massa

In response to the opening question, Justice Massa said he thought his answer would be similar to the others, noting any of his colleagues would be a superb choice.

Justice Massa noted that over the past thirty years the Indiana Supreme Court has made things better for citizens of the state. He recounted Scott Newman’s remark that the Indiana Supreme Court cares as much about the cases it does not take and those that it does take. He mentioned increasing minority representation on the bench and in the bar, among other things.

Justice Massa also mentioned developing case law, citing the recent Good Samaritan case where the Court allowed for the first time the statute of limitations to be tolled for fraudulent concealment.

Finally, he noted the “ceremonial” and “diplomatic” duties. These include maintaining collegial relationships with the other branches, which sometimes involves collaboration and persuasion.

The most important responsibility of the Chief, though, is maintaining the independence of the judiciary.

Mr. Christie asked about how Justice Massa’s background developed his managerial style. Justice Massa noted his discomfort in discussing his own background when his colleagues were all so well-qualified. He then discussed people that he was able to learn from and emulate, including Scott Newman and Mitch Daniels. He has also led two state agencies.

In selecting judges he noted important traits for selecting judges include not only intellect but humility.

In response to Ms. Northenor’s question about possible changes, Justice Massa said he was unlikely to make any significant changes at least at the outset. He does not come to the position with an agenda. He noted the possibility of consolidating some positions in light of impending retirements. He mentioned a possible change with the Tax Court, allowing an en banc three-judge panel to review.

Ultimately, Justice Massa said the biggest challenge was the leadership role the Supreme Court takes over trial courts. He noted Marion County courts face “terrible challenges” regarding funding, which could require the support and involvement of the Chief Justice.

In response to Mr. Williams’ question about leadership style, Justice Massa said he would share responsibilities. He noted he had clerked for Chief Justice Shepard but noted Chief Justice Dickson had a somewhat more inclusive style, involving the other justices in some administrative decisions that Chief Justice Shepard may not have. He said he preferred the Dickson model, involving colleagues even on somewhat “mundane” topics.

In response to Mr. Rose’s question about judicial philosophy, Justice Massa said it would be “no secret to anyone who read his opinions” that he would fall on “what some would call the conservative side.” He noted the founders were incredible sages and the best way to deal with power is to divide it. He said he believed in separation of powers as much as he believes in gravity. Some issues should be resolved “down the hall” rather than by the Court.

Justice Massa said the biggest challenge faced by the next Chief will be budget. He said the most gratifying part of the job would be serving with his four colleagues and work on things that are interesting and important, which he described as a great privilege.

In response to Mr. Tinkey’s question, Justice Massa said “continuing to uphold the rule of law” was the most important thing the Court could do to further the cause of justice. Justice Massa said the Court is like “instant replay officials,” which get to view the play from ten angles and with unlimited time. He noted trial judges have a more difficult job.

Unlike Justice Rush’s carefully crafted three-point answers, Justice Massa’s message was at times difficult to discern. His humility is certainly admirable, but I don’t know if anyone in the room was left with the sense he really wants the job.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on August 6, 2014 01:41 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts | Schumm - Commentary