- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana’s next state Supreme Court justice, Wabash County Superior Court Judge Christopher Goff, said Monday his appointment to the state’s highest court is humbling beyond words and something he never would have imagined at the start of his legal career.

Goff’s selection to fill the vacancy created by Justice Robert Rucker’s retirement was announced by Gov. Eric Holcomb. The governor said Goff, 45, “will bring his unique voice and experiences” from his years in rural Indiana to the five-member court when he becomes its youngest member.

“Judge Goff grew up in a working class neighborhood and has spent most of his life living in a rural county, which will complement his colleagues on the bench with their own deep roots in other urban and suburban regions of the state,” Holcomb said at his Statehouse announcement.

He selected Goff over the two other finalists for the vacancy chosen by Indiana’s Judicial Nominating Commission: Boone Superior Court Judge Matthew Kincaid and Clark Circuit Court Judge Vicki Carmichael. Twenty people had applied for the vacancy.

Goff graduated from the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 1996 and worked in a private practice in Huntington County prior to his appointment to the bench in adjacent Wabash County, where he grew up.

He said at Monday’s announcement that he was cutting his lawn Saturday when Holcomb called with the news that he had chosen him for the vacancy. His wife of 24 years, Raquel, ran with the cellphone and delivered the governor’s call to her husband.

“I was riding my lawn tractor,” Goff said.

He thanked his wife for her support over the years. The couple, who met in law school and married in 1993, have three daughters and a son.

“When I began my career in Huntington we had a 1986 Dodge Colt, $70 and two kids,” Goff said, adding that he never would have fathomed that someday he would be a member of the high court.

“It’s just beyond words.”

Goff will replace Rucker, 70, who retired in May after 18 years on the court, five years before reaching the court’s mandatory retirement age. The date when he will join the court has not been determined.

Goff called Rucker “one of the greatest jurists in the history of our great state.” Rucker became only the second black justice on the high court when he was named to the bench in 1999 by Democratic Gov. Frank O’Bannon. He was the court’s only remaining Democratic appointee.

All five current justices have now been appointed since 2010 by Republican governors, and all of them are white.

Goff has served as a Wabash Superior Court judge since 2005. In his application for the high court, he wrote that the courts in Wabash County, located in northeastern Indiana, are among the state’s busiest based on the number of cases assigned to each judge.

He will join Chief Justice Loretta Rush, Justice Steven David, Justice Mark Massa and Justice Geoffrey Slaughter on the court.

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This version of the story corrects that Goff and his wife have three daughters and a son, not two daughters.

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