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Court Term Kicks Off With Traditional Red Mass, Address By Iowa Supreme Court Justice Christensen 10/11/18  10/11/18 1:35:31 PM Printer Friendly VersionPrinter Friendly Version

Court Term Kicks Off With Traditional Red Mass,
Address By Iowa Supreme Court Justice Christensen

Among those at the 2018 Red Mass were (from left) Gov. Pete Ricketts, Hon. Elizabeth Crnkovich, Creighton Interim Law School Dean Mike Kelly, Hon. Sheryl Lohaus, Hon. Patrick Runge, Hon. Peter Bataillon, Hon. Julie Martin, Archbishop George Lucas, Hon. Greg Schatz, Hon. Michael Nelson, Hon. Stephanie Martinez, Hon. Susan Christensen, Hon. Jeff Marcuzzo, Hon. Robert Rossiter, Jr., Hon. Matt Morrissey and Hon. Horacio Wheelock. In front, graduate intern Hannah Clark holds the Heritage Edition of The St. John’s Bible. (Photo by Lorraine Boyd)

By Lorraine Boyd
The Daily Record

For nearly a century, the Red Mass has helped mark the beginning of the Supreme Court’s new term.
The annual celebration in the Catholic Church is open to all members of the legal profession, regardless of religious affiliation. Judges, lawyers, law school professors, law students and government officials marked the opening of the judicial year October 3 at St. John’s Catholic Church in Omaha. The name derives from the red robes of judges from centuries ago.
Creighton University’s School of Law sponsored the 2018 Red Mass.
It corresponds with the first Monday in October, which marks the start of the U.S. Supreme Court’s new term. This year is the 13th year of the Roberts Court, so named for the Chief Justice.
The celebrant was the Most Reverend George Lucas, Archbishop of Omaha. Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts was among those who presented one of the readings during the Mass.

Justice Susan Christensen, who says she prefers being called Susie, shared some very personal memories that she said she had not shared before, bringing a tear not only to her eye, but to those in the audience.    (Photo by Lorraine Boyd)

Following the 5 p.m. ceremony, the law school held a reception dinner featuring Justice Susan Larson Christensen, the newest member of the Iowa Supreme Court and only the third woman to serve. She is a 1991 graduate of Creighton’s School of Law.
Few people have a more compelling story.
Christensen quoted from Archbishop Lucas’s homily at the Red Mass when he remarked on the importance of judges saying, “It makes a difference who is sitting inside the robe.”
Although her father, the late Jerry Larson, was the longest-serving justice on the Iowa Supreme Court, she said that isn’t why she got the job, but rather because of who she had become as she navigated her life.
The native of Harlan, Iowa, married young, juggled raising two children alone while attending law school as her husband had to stay behind in Illinois for two years to complete his optometry degree. Their oldest of five children, Nicholas, was born with cerebral palsy. Professionally, she started her own law firm, was a partner in another firm and was an assistant county attorney before becoming a Shelby County District Associate Judge, then District Judge.
She told the story of her journey raising Nic, fighting for his rights at every turn. She fought for Nic to receive a three-wheel bike instead of a wheelchair; she fought for handicap-friendly curbing in her town of Harlan; she fought for Nic to have a service dog; she fought for Nic to receive his driver’s license.
Every step of the way, she was required to fight through bureaucracy, outdated rules and outdated thinking. She used every resource she could muster, including serving on the school board and making a video to show the school district the challenges that their outdated middle school presented.
In every case, she and Nic prevailed. He is now a successful 36-year-old.
“It undoubtedly has helped me become the person I am today,” she said. “I asked him when he was in high school what the worst thing about having cerebral palsy was. In my surprise, he said, ‘Nothing.’ That was the day I started healing.”
She summed up her remarks by reiterating what she was fighting for: “Everyone needs a little Nic in their life.”
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