- Associated Press - Thursday, January 19, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana Supreme Court Justice Robert Rucker said Thursday that he’s retiring five years before he reaches the court’s mandatory retirement age because he wants to spend more time visiting his 17 far-flung grandchildren, traveling with his wife and exploring other interests.

Rucker, whose retirement was announced Wednesday by Chief Justice Loretta Rush, said he hasn’t yet decided exactly when he’ll step down but that it will be sometime this spring.

The 70-year-old said he had considered retiring from Indiana’s high court when he turned 65 in 2012, but opted against doing so because he didn’t yet have specific retirement plans. Rucker told reporters Thursday that he’s finally “figured out what’s next.”

“Basically I’ve had time to think about it,” he said during a briefing at the Statehouse.

Rucker said he and his wife, Denise, who have 17 grandchildren, plan to spend more time visiting them in Georgia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and other states. He said they’ll also be traveling more for pleasure, especially in the Caribbean.

Rucker said he’s considering doing some adjunct teaching after retirement and may remain with Indiana’s courts as a senior judge “to keep my hand sort of on the pulse of what’s going on in our courts and maybe having some influence.”

Rucker was named to the court in 1999 by Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon, becoming only its second black justice. He filled a vacancy left by the retirement of Myra Selby, who was the first woman and African-American to serve on the court.

A seven-member commission will interview applicants for the vacancy on the five-member court and eventually recommend three finalists to Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb, who will choose one of them to succeed Rucker. The deadline for those applications is noon on March 3.

Rucker said he hopes the attorneys applying will include women, blacks, Hispanics and attorneys from other minority groups, stressing that diversity is important in Indiana’s courts.

“I hope that they apply and I hope that if they apply they’re selected. I think that when our courts look like America that goes a long way to getting the trust that we can expect in the public,” he said.

When Rucker’s successor is chosen, it will complete the remaking of Indiana’s high court, with all five justices appointed since 2010 by Republican governors.

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