In Memoriam: Former Chief Justice Robert M. Givan
August 31, 2009 by Editor
The Justices and staff of the Indiana Supreme Court were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Justice Richard Givan. His public service to the State of Indiana included 26 years as a jurist on the high court, including nearly 13 years as Chief Justice. In addition to his remarkable legal career, he is remembered fondly by court staff as a loyal friend and great storyteller. His portrait is proudly on display in the Supreme Court Courtroom in the State House and serves as a lasting reminder of his tremendous role in state government.
Justice Richard M. Givan was Indiana’s ninety-sixth justice. He was elected to the Court in 1968 and served continuously until his retirement in December 1994. He served as the Chief Justice from November 1974 to March 1987. He was the founding chairman of the Indiana Judicial Center.
Justice Givan was famous for his “Givanisms” including, “you pile on too many apples, you can’t shove the cart” and “it’s not that he doesn’t know there’s a problem, it’s that he doesn’t know that he doesn’t know that there is a problem.”
Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, who served on the Court with Justice Givan from 1985-1994, said: “This is difficult news for the Court to hear, so I know it is a very painful time for Justice Givan’s family. I have wonderful memories of the time I shared with Justice Givan on the bench. He was a thoroughly practical man, deeply rooted in Indiana’s legal community, and interested in new ways of improving courts.”
Born June 7, 1921, in Indianapolis, Richard Givan graduated from Decatur Central High School and received an LL.B. from Indiana University. He was the first person to serve as a law clerk at the Indiana Supreme Court. He was admitted to the Indiana bar in 1952 and served as a deputy public defender and was an assistant attorney general. He was elected to the Legislature and was ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He was also chairman of the board of directors of the Indiana Judicial Conference from 1974 to 1987, served on the board of managers of the Indiana Judges Association from 1975 to 1987, and became an Indiana Judicial College graduate in 1989.
In addition to his legal career, Justice Givan served as a pilot in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II and was later a flight instructor with the Air Corps Reservists. A fourth generation lawyer, his great-grandfather, Noah S. Givan, was a circuit judge in Dearborn County, Indiana before 1900. His grandfather, Martin J. Givan, was a Dearborn County trial lawyer. His father, Clinton H. Givan, was a Marion County Superior Court Judge and practiced law in Indianapolis for forty years.