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Appellate Judge Derek Molter to become new Indiana Supreme Court justice

Judge Derek Molter, who will become Indiana's new Supreme Court justice, stands in front of an American flag and smiles as he looks down during the press conference announcing he was named to the court.
Brandon Smith
/
IPB News
Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Derek Molter will become Indiana's 111th Supreme Court justice.

State appellate Judge Derek Molter will be Indiana’s newest Supreme Court justice.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Friday he had chosen Molter from among three finalists to replace retiring Justice Steven David.

Holcomb called Molter a “forward thinker” who is “humble and caring and collaborative.”

“Someone who has long-term vision for our state and the judicial system,” Holcomb said.

The governor said Molter has "profound respect" for the Indiana Constitution and the rule of law.

"He is absolutely devoted to the cause of justice, both inside and outside the courtroom," Holcomb said.

Speaking about his judicial philosophy, Molter said that he interprets the Constitution "consistent with the understanding of that text at the time it was enacted or ratified" – an approach often called "originalism."

"The virtue of that philosophy is that it anchors the court to ensure that it's exercising its judicial role. Under our separation of powers, that's the only role the judges are here to perform; they're not here to perform the legislative role," Molter said. "And so, the virtue of that philosophy is that ... it keeps the court in that lane."

Molter joined the Indiana Court of Appeals last October. Prior to that, he worked in private practice. And he said working in those roles, he's "long revered" the Indiana Supreme Court.

"And part of what I've admired is that as this court goes about its work, its first step towards being respected is being respectful," Molter said.

In welcoming Molter to the court, Chief Justice Loretta Rush said being a Supreme Court justice is a "high bar" and a "big job."

"We're counting on you stepping up," Rush said. "We're counting on you being that face of justice throughout the state of Indiana."

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Molter will become the 111th justice in the state’s history – 108 of whom, including Molter, are white men. Asked whether Hoosiers should be concerned about that lack of diversity, Molter noted that the current court has been working on diversity, equity and inclusion.

“That’s certainly an important part of the court’s mission and I look forward to doing my part to continue that legacy and advance that ball forward,” Molter said.

Asked about that same issue, Holcomb said his selection is "not about who it's not, it's about who it is."

"Today's selection is about, in my mind, who will best fulfill not just Justice Steven David's legacy but who will lead into the future," Holcomb said.

Holcomb said any of the three candidates he had to choose from would've made Indiana proud. Molter praised his fellow finalists, Judge Dana Kenworthy and Justin Forkner, as "two of Indiana's finest public servants."

Contact reporter Brandon at bsmith@ipbs.org or follow him on Twitter at @brandonjsmith5.