Indiana State University Newsroom

Indiana chief justice delivers Constitution Week address, receives President's Award

September 16, 2009

Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepherd received one of Indiana State University's most prestigious awards during a Constitution Week program in Cunningham Memorial Library. Shepherd became only the 10th recipient of the university's President's Award in the 36 years since the award was established.

ISU President Daniel J. Bradley presented the President's Award for Distinguished Public Service and Outstanding Achievement at the conclusion of an address by Shepherd on "The U.S. Constitution as a Great American Export."

"Justice Shepherd is uniquely qualified to bring this presentation to campus," Bradley said. "He is Indiana's foremost advocate for the understanding of the U.S. Constitution and the Indiana Constitution. Throughout his career, Justice Shepherd has fought to make the Constitution a living document in the lives of our citizens."

As the nation's youngest chief justice at the time of his appointment in 1987, Shepard "embraced and promoted technology as a means of making the benefits of the Constitution and our system of government more readily accessible to the public. His State of the Judiciary Address has regularly signaled considerable progress in making Indiana courts more productive and accessible for all of our citizens," Bradley said.

"He also has taken his love of the law beyond the courtroom by serving on boards of directors of not-for-profit organizations and ... to the classroom. His involvement with the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana has helped save countless historic buildings."

The anniversary of the Constitution is a fitting time to reflect on why the document still matters after 222 years, not only to Americans but to people around the world, Shepherd said.

"The American experiment in self government has created more opportunities for more people, has provided more mobility, more peace (and) more opportunity to rise than any other system of government in the whole history of humankind," Shepherd said.

The separation of powers between the executive, legislative and judicial branches and the "establishment of judges that are not beholden to the colonial government have been exported and admired almost everywhere," he said.

A government that includes three equal branches of government and a Bill of Rights enshrined in a national constitution have become common around the country, Shepherd said, even though such a government still is not universally accepted. Such world powers as the United Kingdom still do not have an elected head of state, he said. The British prime minister may appear presidential, but he is actually the leader of the legislative branch.

An independent judiciary is also still not universal, Shepherd said.

"What appears to be is not always what it really is," he explained, noting dictatorial governments of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and Manuel Noriega in Nicaragua had a bill of rights on paper but those nations lacked independent judiciaries to enforce those rights.

The strength of America's constitutional law has allowed the United States to become an exporter of other sorts of law, such as commercial law, the chief justice said.

"The notions that Americans have lived with, such as securities laws, banking laws and laws about underwriting of debt, have been adopted around the world in places that hope to have successful economies," Shepherd said.
The U.S. is currently working to export intellectual property laws to nations where American computer software developers are unable to do business because new programs are pirated as soon as they are released to the market.

China and India "now recognize that this is among the keys to their own future prosperities," he said.

Court systems and universities try to equip people with inquisitive minds to develop new ideas based upon interesting things that happen in their daily activities, Shepherd said.

Just as some of the world's most significant discoveries in health and medicine have occurred by accident, such as the development of penicillin, so too can significant developments in other fields, including law, the chief justice said.

He called on students to use the preparation they receive at Indiana State to make a difference in the world by building on the record of inquiry that has led to so many American exports - in science and in law.

"It is that kind of ambition that has sustained the American experiment and can make the nation a better, safer and more prosperous place than it is now. It is the assignment of college students to make that happen," he said.

Shepherd noted that his appearance at Indiana State came on the 100th anniversary of his grandmother's arrival as a student at what was then Indiana State Normal School.

The chief justice's visit to Indiana State was part of a three-day observance of Constitution Week sponsored by the American Democracy Project, the Center for Public Service and Community Engagement and Cunningham Memorial Library.

Previous recipients of the ISU President's Award have included Stan Jones, former Indiana higher education commissioner; Tony and Mary Hulman, owners of Hulman & Co. and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway; entertainers Bob Hope and Doc Severinsen; legendary college basketball coach John Wooden, who began his college career at Indiana State; former NBA coach John MacLeod; Olympic athlete Bruce Baumgartner; and NBA Hall of Famer Larry Bird.

Photo: - Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepherd delivered a Constitution Week address Sept. 15 at Indiana State University's Cunningham Memorial Library.

Video: Watch Justice Shepherd's Constitution Week address:

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3743 or


Story Highlights

Indiana Chief Justice Randall Shepard received one of Indiana State University's most prestigious awards following a Constitution Week address in which he discussed how U.S. Constitutional law has been the basis for exporting law, goods and even intellectual property to other countries.

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