New Supreme Court justice looks to be in it for long run

Submitted photoGov. Eric Holcomb, right, swears in Christoper M. Goff as Indiana's 110th Supreme Court justice on Friday. Joining them is Goff's wife, Raquel.

INDIANAPOLIS — For many Decembers, Wabash County Superior Court Judge Christopher M. Goff has run a 50-kilometer ultra-marathon.

On Friday, one of Goff's friends, attorney Mark Guenin, stressed some "key points" to Goff: "Marathon. Ultra-marathon. In December. Fifty-K on trails.

"In Indiana we have perfectly good roads. ... We have four seasons. You don't have to wait and schedule a run in the winter. The starting line of this marathon is very near the finish. You do not have to run 30 miles."

Then Guenin told about 200 attorneys, judges and friends gathered at the Indiana Statehouse: "Judge Goff is committed and not afraid of the challenge."

The message was a friendly reminder to Goff of the job he formally accepted Friday. He took a ceremonial oath, administered by Gov. Eric Holcomb, as Indiana's 110th Supreme Court justice.

"The Supreme Court is comprised of five justices with five different and distinct perspectives," Goff said. "The perspective that I most naturally bring is one that is formed by more than 20 years of experience working in a rural county courthouse."

Goff succeeds Justice Robert Rucker, who retired in May. Holcomb named Goff in June.

Goff, a native of Wabash, served as Wabash County Superior Court judge for 12 years. He and his wife, Raquel, have four children.

"In 1993, we were married in the Wabash County Courthouse and ... we went to work second shift at the factory that night," he recalled. "We struggled for many years as so many families do, but we always maintained faith in each other, our family and the promise of the future."

Born in 1972, Goff graduated summa cum laude in 1994 from Ball State University. He earned his law degree at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 1996.

He served as Huntington County public defender for two years. His work led to the establishment of the Huntington County Court Appointed Special Advocate program. Goff was named Huntington County Pro Bono Attorney of the Year in 2001 and 2002.

On Friday, he underwent a robing ceremony and then took a seat on the bench between Chief Justice Loretta Rush and Justice Geoffrey Slaughter.

Goff recalled watching a video on instructions in legal equity for clients offered by Rucker.

"As an attorney, I constantly use the lessons taught on that videocassette more than anything that I learned in law school. You see, most of my clients have very little," he said in thanking Rucker. "In such cases I have to appeal to the court's sense of fairness."

Twenty years later, he finally met Rucker at a refreshments table at a conference in French Lick. He recalled his first discussion with her.

"Sitting on the table was a huge plastic jar of pretzels filled with peanut butter. I will never forget how you grabbed a big handful of those pretzels and walked away.

"You turned to me and said, 'Chris, these are pretty good.'"