Justice Dickson’s Lasting Influence

by Kelsey Dilday, 2L Note Candidate

Justice Brent E. Dickson of the Indiana Supreme Court retired on April 29, 2016, after a 30-year term. Justice Dickson is the second-longest-service Indiana Supreme Court Justice after Justice Isaac Blackford who served for more than thirty-five years in the 1800s. Indiana Supreme Court Justice Brent Dickson retiring in April, INDYSTAR (Jan. 11, 2016, 12:55 PM), http://www.indystar.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/11/indiana-supreme-court-justice-brent-dickson-retiring-april/78633916/ [https://perma.cc/B4E5-3GQ4].  At his retirement, Justice Dickson was praised for his civility, wisdom, graceimg_5545, and wit during his time on the bench. Governor Mike Pence presented Justice Dickson with the Sagamore of the Wabash award for his longstanding service for Indiana. Justice Dickson hailed for his civility, grace at retirement, WISHTV.COM (April 29, 2016, 3:52 PM), http://wishtv.com/2016/04/29/justice-dickson-hailed-for-his-civility-grace-at-retirement/ [https://perma.cc/S7NF-H5FD]. This award is named after the Native American term “sagamore,” which referred to a great man within a tribe who would look to the chief for guidance. The award is a high honor, always bestowed by Indiana’s Governor to individuals who have “contributed greatly to our Hoosier heritage.” Sagamore of the Wabash Award, IN.gov, http://www.in.gov/portal/files/Sagamore.pdf [https://perma.cc/UV32-ZDPA] (last visited Jan. 1, 2017). Chief Justice Loretta Rush also thanked Justice Dickson for his help in “institutionaliz[ing] civility” on the Indiana Supreme Court. Callahan, Rick, Retiring Indiana Justice Dickson hailed for civility, South Bend TRIBUNE (April 30, 2016), http://www.southbendtribune.com/news/publicsafety/retiring-indiana-justice-dickson-hailed-for-civility/article_c2752c5f-90a7-5d81-9e1e-f7c8984cf3ea.html [https://perma.cc/6LZG-YE5Y].

However, Justice Dickson’s civility is not his only tribute to the Indiana Supreme Court, and he left behind thirty years of long standing court precedent. Throughout his thirty year term, he was an important influence on Indiana constitutional law. Justice Dickson was integral in the formation of the modern standards for application of the Indiana Constitution’s Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause. His opinions on wrongful death tort cases helped create a rulebook for practicing attorneys. Oddi, Marcia, Ind. Courts – “A Tribute to Justice Brent Dickson’s Contribution to Indiana Constitutional Law, The Indiana Law Blog (Mar. 20, 2016, 6:22 PM), http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2016/03/ind_courts_a_tr_2.html [https://perma.cc/H6XC-VBPZ]. Also notable is his influence in the reviving the Public Standing Doctrine, a doctrine which allows plaintiffs to sue to enforce public duties even if the plaintiff lacks a stake in the outcome of a case that differs from the stake held by the general public. Additionally, Dickson’s opinions are known to show a clear preference for jury decisions of factual disputes. As a strict constructionist, Justice Dickson, throughout his thirty years of service, remained dedicated to the Indiana Constitution and its framers’ intent, while setting aside his personal and subjective perspectives. IUPUI Law Professionals Reflect On Former Justice’s Impact, WBAA (Mar. 30, 2016), http://wbaa.org/post/iupui-law-professionals-reflect-former-chief-justices-impact#stream/0 [https://perma.cc/688F-9PHR].

While Justice Dickson’s thirty-year tenure for the Indiana Supreme Court is now over, it is clear that his ideas while on the Court will leave a lasting impression on Indiana’s legal landscape. To read more about Justice Dickson’s influence on Indiana constitutional law check out Jon Laramore’s article in this issue of the Indiana Law Review. Laramore, Jon, Justice Dickson’s Thirty-Year Influence on Indiana Constitutional Law, 50 Ind. L. Rev. 49 (2016) (available at http://mckinneylaw.iu.edu/ilr/pdf/vol50p49.pdf).



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