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Retiring Judge Lawrence honored by Southern District Court

Federal and state judges, magistrate judges, former law clerks, court staff, Indiana Supreme Court justices, legal scholars and attorneys along with extended family crowded into the William E. Steckler Ceremonial Courtroom Tuesday afternoon to honor their friend and colleague, Senior Judge William Lawrence.

The celebration marked his retirement from U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, which he served for nearly 17 years. His judicial friends and other guests shared memories, praised his judicial temperament, and recalled the countless times they had enjoyed his kindness.

“Thank you for your friendship, wonderful personality and your sense of humor,” Judge Richard Young said to Lawrence. “Our lives and careers are so much richer because of your friendship.”

Lawrence, a 1973 graduate of Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law, initially joined the federal bench in 2002 as a magistrate judge for the Southern District. In June 2008, he made history by becoming the first magistrate judge to become a judge in the Southern Indiana Disrict Court.

Prior to being a magistrate judge, Lawrence was an elected Judge of the Marion Circuit Court from 1996 to 2002, after serving as a part-time master commissioner there for more than 13 years. He served as a part-time public defender in Marion Superior Criminal Division 4 for nine years.

Chief Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson opened the event by explaining Lawrence was not retiring but rather taking inactive senior status. She said that status could be described in one word — “golf.”

Echoing many, Senior Judge Sarah Evans Barker noted Lawrence’s experience, leadership, work ethic, and unfailing warmth. But the “creme de la creme is his delightful self-effacing sense of humor and wry continuous smile.”

His federal colleagues, she said, had been hoping the day would never come when they had to say farewell to Lawrence. “Parting is not a sweet sorrow,” Baker said, “it is only a sorrow.”

Lawrence was presented with the Sagamore of the Wabash Award in recognition of his service. Also, the district court will hang Lawrence’s portrait, which Magnus-Stinson said captured the twinkle in his eye, in the Steckler Courtroom, where it will serve as a reminder of their friend.

Lawrence closed the celebration by telling his federal colleagues they created an atmosphere of civility and congeniality that is rare in courthouses across the country. “You have been my mentors,” he said, “and you are my heroes.”

Read more on Lawrence’s retirement ceremony in the July 10 edition of Indiana Lawyer.

Marilyn Odendahl / Indiana Lawyer