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Former Marion Superior judge dies

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Former Marion Superior Judge John "Jan" D. Downer died Aug.10 at the age of 73. Judge Downer was appointed a Marion County Municipal judge in 1978 by Gov. Otis Bowen and served as judge for 22 years. He retired from the Marion Superior Court in 2000 and worked as a senior judge until 2004.

Former colleague and friend Marion Superior Senior Judge Chuck Wiles said Judge Downer was always well-prepared and well-informed about the law and was respected by lawyers.

"I would say Jan may have sometimes been a little stubborn," Judge Wiles said. "He always had a good reason for any decision he made."

The two started working together as municipal judges in the 1970s - before the Marion courts consolidated in the 1990s - and developed a friendship off the bench. Judge Downer loved to travel and the two often traveled together to educational seminars. He loved to prepare trips, find ways to get there, and places to go, said Judge Wiles.

Before becoming a judge, he practiced law for 14 years. Judge Downer received his J.D. from Indiana University School of Law - Indianapolis in 1964. He was active with the Indiana Bar Association and his church.

Judge Downer is survived by his wife, Betty Grigg Downer; son Jeff Downer; daughter Susan Bradley; stepdaughter Molli Kias; and four grandchildren. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Zion Evangelical United Church of Christ, 416 E. North St., Indianapolis. Visitation with a luncheon will follow at the church.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Julian Center or the Alzheimer's Association, Greater Indianapolis Chapter.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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