Supreme Court Welcomes Justice Steven David
December 1, 2010 by James F. Maguire
On a bright, sunny Monday with fall in the air, the Indiana Supreme Court Justices welcomed as the court’s newest member former Boone County Circuit Court Judge, Steven David. The one-hour ceremony included remarks by Governor Mitch Daniels and Chief Justice Shepard. The Governor administered the oath of office to Judge David while his wife, Catheryne Pully, held the Bible on which he placed his hand. Justice David became the 106th Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court on October 18, 2010. He was appointed by the Governor, from a list of three nominees, to replace Justice Theodore R. Boehm who retired on September 30 after 14 years of service on the Court.
Justice David had a multi-faceted career of private practice, corporate counsel experience, and stellar service as a military lawyer, in addition to his superb work as a trial judge. He graduated magna cum laude from Murray State University and earned his law degree from Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis.
He served in the United States Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps and the Army Reserves, earning the rank of Colonel and holding top secret security clearances. In private practice he focused on personal injury, family law, civil litigation, and served as in-house counsel for Mayflower Transit, Inc.
Since becoming a judge in 1994, he tried or presided over at least sixty jury trials in civil, criminal, and military proceedings. He has testified before the Indiana General Assembly on juvenile law and the United States Congress on national security issues.
In 2008, Indiana Court Times published an article on Judge David, which can be found online at
In his first public remarks, Justice David acknowledged and thanked the dignitaries, friends and family assembled to watch and listen on that historic day. He then blended humor, respect for the rule of law, insight, philosophy, and lyrics from country songs to set the stage for his future service on the state’s highest court. He quoted Abe Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Toby Keith, John Mellencamp, Kenny Chesney and Lee Brice.
He thanked Governor Daniels and told him: “…I take this position in awe of the responsibility and in awe of the rule of law. I will protect and hold sacred our state and our constitution. Every day I will do my very best. I have no agenda. I owe no one anything. I will respect and honor the oath I have taken. I will serve with humility. I will work hard.”
He had words of praise for his new colleagues, with whom he will be spending a lot of time in the future. “Chief Justice Shepard, Justice Sullivan, Justice Dickson, Justice Rucker, you are great Justices and great role models for all of us and I am honored to now serve with you. Your collegiality and respect for each other’s opinions; respect toward each other; respect toward our profession… is a reflection of the value that you place on civility and professionalism, qualities our profession, indeed everyone, all of us, regardless of our avocation or vocation, could benefit from and improve upon.”
Justice David made it clear that he would be involved from day one: “Life is a contact sport. You’ve got to play. You can’t sit on the sidelines and watch.” He cited Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. as a model for being a good listener, ready to learn: “Man’s mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” Justice David said: “I believe good listening and a good mind changing once in a while is a sign of strength of character not weakness of mind.”
In a speech that drew many responsive laughs, one of the biggest came when he addressed, in his words,
“the elephant in the room …just how smart was Justice Ted Boehm.” Justice David directed his observations to Justice Boehm saying: “I have heard varying descriptions from various people: “smartest person I have ever known,” “smartest person in the world,” “one of the smartest people I have ever met.” It goes on and on…
Well, I found one authority who knows both of us. So let’s just settle this issue right now. Professor Susannah Mead, Professor of Law, IU – Indy. She was one of my professors and she is still teaching at the law school. Of course she was a very young professor when I was there. Anyway, it seems she also knows you. She wrote me a letter shortly after the Governor’s announcement congratulating me.
Let me share the relevant portion…I quote ‘Ted Boehm may be the smartest person I know but you were a memorable student…and I know you will make a significant mark on the Supreme Court and the State.’”
Justice David acknowledged that maybe Justice Boehm had him on that one, but he did one-up him on another matter. Justice Boehm once met Fidel Castro when he was in Cuba. Justice David proudly reported that he met his wife, Catheryne, in Cuba, so he “won that round.”
As an avowed lover of country music and its lyrics, he referred to a song by Kenny Chesney, “I Didn’t Get Here Alone.” He said it describes his journey to this point in his legal career:
I didn’t get here alone.
That road’s just too rough and long.
I might be the one the spotlight’s on
But I didn’t get here alone
Yeah, I know I didn’t get here alone.
The crew, the band, yeah, and all you fans
That stood in the rain or shine
I want to thank everybody out there for the ride
Cause I didn’t get here alone
Ain’t traveled one mile on my own
You’re why I sing my song
He thanked his father for being the “superman of a super family” and for other family members who travelled to be with him, especially his wife, Catheryne.
He summed up his judicial philosophy this way: “I believe in humility, respect, fairness and the Rule of Law. The Rule of Law Always! However painful at times it can be. We must preserve the rule of law. I am neither a member of the executive branch nor the legislative branch. I respect those of you who are. I admire you. I must also trust you and your judgment. I do not believe this is about me. It is about the process and the fact that I have been selected to be a guardian of the law, not to make it. I shall protect the constitution of Indiana. I will work with my colleagues to improve the practice of law, to promote lawyers and the practice of law. I don’t like lawyer jokes. My obligation is heavy. My responsibility is awesome but it is not me who is important. It is the oath I have taken…it is the public service to which you have entrusted me. It is not about me.”
He quoted Abraham Lincoln: “I do the very best I know how – the very best I can; and I mean to keep on doing so until the end.” Justice David then made this promise: “I pledge to each of you and all of Indiana that I will do the very best I can.”
He then concluded his remarks with these words:
“I have an eternal optimistic realism. I love life! I try to look for the good in everybody. It is not hard to do and can be amazingly helpful! I am a cup half-full, not half-empty, person.
If you are still uncomfortable with my love for music lyrics, get over it… no, I mean try one more country song which captures my enthusiasm for being selected as the 106th Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court…It is Lee Brice’s “LOVE Like Crazy”. It is a great song. You can substitute the word live for love if you want to; it still is a great song. It goes like this…
Just ask him how he did it, he’ll say pull up a seat,
It will only take a minute to tell you everything
Be a best friend. Tell the truth and overuse I love you
Go to Work. Do your Best. Don’t outsmart your common sense.
Never let your prayin knees get lazy
And Love like crazy
I say Live this life you have to its fullest. Be true to yourself.
I will leave you with my own personal message. It consists of a core of eight words and a duty of four words. 12 simple words
Work hard. Do good. Be proud. Have fun! DO what is right!”