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Darden winds down his appellate career

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Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Carr Darden has worked every day since he was 13, but that’s soon going to change.

The state’s mandatory retirement age of 75 for appellate judges is knocking on Darden’s door, requiring him to step down this summer from the job he’s held for almost 18 years.

carr darden Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Carr Darden will wrap up a 40-year legal career when he retires from the state’s intermediate appellate court in July, the month he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 75. (IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

Darden submitted a letter Jan. 3 to the Indiana chief justice and the governor’s office announcing he will retire as a full-time appellate judge on his 75th birthday, July 21. He plans to stay until the last day, balancing the line between “leaving too early” and staying around until he’s “ineffective or callous in judging.”

Darden said he’s been preparing for several months, hoping to ease into retirement with a smooth transition.

“There’s no doubt I would say yes, that I’d stay on longer if the law didn’t say I had to leave at this point,” he said. “But on the other hand, I look at all the years I’ve worked and this is a relief in that sense.”

Darden was appointed by Gov. Evan Bayh in 1994 to fill a vacancy created by Judge Stanley B. Miller’s death. He graduated in 1970 from Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law and spent the first part of his career in the State Public Defender’s Office and Marion County Public Defender’s Office.

Darden originally laughed at the idea of becoming a judge when others suggested it, but he later became a Marion County master commissioner to see if it was a career path he’d like to pursue. That led to him serving on the Marion Municipal and Superior courts in the late 1980s and early 90s until his appointment to the COA.

Since then, caseloads have increased by more than 14 percent and Darden said much of the way the court does business has changed significantly – from technological changes to how the appellate panels are structured to decide cases. When he started, the panels were divided up by each of the four judicial districts instead of the rotating nondistrict-focused organization the appellate court uses now. That meant each panel was together for at least two years instead of only a few months as they are now before a random rotation of new judges occurs.

But change has been a good thing. Darden said the court collaborated better after blurring those divisional lines.

“Now when we speak, we do so as a unified court of appeals that operates in three-judge panels representing the state,” he said. “That was a significant change.”

Darden doesn’t discount the significance his presence on the court has had in the area of diversity – he’s the only African-American on the Court of Appeals since Justice Robert Rucker left the intermediate appellate bench to join the Supreme Court in 1999. He hopes diversity will be a consideration when his successor is chosen to ensure at least the same minority representation on the court.

“I wish I could guarantee another African-American could be a part of the process,” he said. “Having diversity on the court makes an impact, since we can enlighten each other on our own views and reading of the laws. We shouldn’t blindly follow that, but know that diversity is important and needed because everyone has to be represented in what we’re doing here.”

Darden said he spoke with Chief Justice Randall Shepard in August about his retirement, indicating he would gradually phase out his leadership responsibilities. Darden decided to submit his letter at the start of 2012 to allow the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission enough time to begin interviewing judicial applicants.

Shepard’s announcement in mid-December about his plan to retire in March was a surprise, Darden said, and he wonders how that will impact the selection process for his replacement. The process to find Darden’s successor has not yet started.

To prepare for his retirement, Darden stepped down from leadership roles with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program Committee, the Criminal Court Benchbook Committee of the Indiana Judges Association and the Senior Judges Committee for the Indianapolis Bar Association. He isn’t able to decrease his caseload, but he has started saying no to new assignments in order to allow others to take on those tasks.

“My staff doesn’t like to leave me alone, because it seems like every time they step away, I’m answering the phone talking and agreeing to something,” he said. “I’m cutting back on that.”

The Judicial Family Institute has said that retirement is something too many judges fail to adequately think about while they’re on the bench, not considering how they’ll truly feel about being retired before they get to that stage.

Senior judges who’ve gone through the retirement process say that the administrative planning Darden’s doing is about all that anyone can do before stepping down. How much a judge can gradually withdraw depends on the level of activity and involvement each person has.

Senior Judge Patrick D. Sullivan, who left the Court of Appeals in 2007 after four decades, said he evaluated in advance of his retirement whether he could continue to contribute as a senior judge.

“You have to know when your time’s come and look ahead to what you’ll want to realistically do,” he said.

No other Court of Appeals judges are required to retire soon due to age, but that doesn’t mean they can’t choose to leave at any point, court administrator Steve Lancaster said.

“There’s not much you can actually do and plan for until there’s a new judge named, but you can gather your resources and energy mentally,” he said. “We don’t assign cases differently and there’s really not a lot the court can do about the loss of experience because that’s inherent. You really have to make sure the staff is ready for a smooth transition and the new judge has the ability to hit the ground running.”

Darden plans to be a senior judge at the appellate and trial court levels, but he is concerned about how much the trial court experience has changed in the nearly 18 years he has been a COA judge.

Darden recalls a conversation with his friend, U.S. Senior Judge William Steckler, prior to his death. For so long, Steckler said, he and his wife had put off “living life off the bench” until he retired, and then within only a few years of his retirement, she died. Darden has used that experience as guidance in his own life, traveling and spending time with his family and doing church activities as much as he can.

“I’ve been living my life while on the bench, not waiting until after I’ve left,” he said, noting that he and his wife of 57 years have maintained a balance between his judicial work and leisure. “This has been the best job in the world and this is my home, but we’ve tried to make sure we’re not waiting for something that might never come.”•
 

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  1. Am I the only one who sees that the City is essentially giving away the MSA site AND giving millions to build new buildings on the site when this site would be the perfect place for the Justice Complex? Across from City-County, check; keeping it centrally located, check, etc. It's my understanding that the GM site must be purchased by the City from Motors Liquidation Company. STOP WASTING WHAT WE ALREADY HAVE AND OUR TAX DOLLARS! The Ballard Administration has not been known for it's common sense...never voted for him and never will!

  2. This guy sounds like the classic molester/manipulator.

  3. Louis D. Brandeis was born in 1856. At 9 years of age it would have been 1865. The Brandeis family did not own slaves. My source Louis D. Brandeis: A Life, by Melvin L. Urofsky.

  4. My name is Matthew Lucas Major, I recently went through a jury trial in Bloomington , In. It was the week of Feb 19-21. Although I have been incarcerated since August 5, 2014. The reason I 'am writing to you sir is on the 21 of February the jury came in with a very excessive and wrongful verdict of guilty on 6 child molesting charges against my daughter who was 9 at the time I was accused. I also had 2 other Felonies one of Intimidation and 1 of Sexual Vicarious Gratification. Judge Marc Kellam on the second day of trial gave me a not guilty on those 2 felonies. The jury was sent out during that time and when brought back Judge Kellam told them to not concern themselves with the 2 Felonies that he ruled on them. They were told to not let evidence they had already heard influence there verdicts. I never in my life touched any child sexually and definitely not with my own daughter. When I was arrested Detective Shawn Karr told me I would be convicted guilty just on my daughters word even without evidence. That's just what happened. my public defender did me so wrong he never once proved to the court and jury all the lies the child told, and Jeremy Noel my public defender could of proven the lies easily. The stories in Serenity's depositions and Forensic interview changed and were not consistent as Prosecutor Darcie Fawcett claimed they were. Yet my attorney never mentioned that. The facts that the child accused me of full penetration in her vagina and rectum was proven lies. Doctor Roberta Hibbard of Riley hospital in Indianapolis confirmed Serenity's hymen intact, no scars, no tearing, no signs of rape to her. Yet my attorney didn't use that knowledge . the DNA was all in my favor. I tell you I will spend my entire life in prison going through rape and beatings etc. even Judge Kellam abused his authority by telling the jurors to listen and believe what the prosecutors side in evidence like my daughters testimony. In one interview with the detectives my daughter got flustered with her mom and said on camera " I'm saying what you told me to mom"!! Yet Mr. Noel said nor did anything to even resemble a defense attorney. Judge Kellam allowed edited version of a taped conversation between the child and her mother. Also Judge Kellam allowed the Prosecutor too bring in to my case a knife found under my seat, the knife wasn't part of my case. She was allowed by my attorney and the judge to put a huge picture of it on the screen and huge picture of my naked privates in a full courtroom and open court. Ms. Fawcett says to jury see how easy Mr. Major could reach the knife and cut his Childs throat. Even though I had no weapons charge against these cases. This gave the jurors prejudice thought against me thinking I threatened her with that knife and how scared she would of been knowing i could get it and kill her. On my sentencing court March 19, 2014 my public defender told Judge Kellam he wish to resign from being my attorney and wished for the court to give me outside council to file a error to trial or appeal. We were denied. Now after openly knowing my public defender don't want to represent me he has to. Well when as parents we make our kids clean a room when they really don't wish to, well the child will but don't mean she will do a good job, that's where I'm at with Mr. Noel. please dont ignore mine and my families pleas for your help . we have all the legal proof you could need to prove Im innocent. Please dont make my spend years in prison innocent when you can fix this wrong. Im not saying Im a perfect man or that I was a perfect dad to my 2 children none of us are. Ive made some bad choices in life and I paid for them. But I didnt ever touch or rape my daughter . I love my children with all my heart. And now through needing attention and a ex-wife who told my granny several times she wish she could put me in prison to get me out of their lives. Well my ex finally accomplished her goal. Sad part is she is destroying our daughter with all this horrific lies and things she taught my daughter to say. My daughter will need therapist to ever hope for a chance of a normal life after what she had done to her by her mom and their side of the family. My daughter told everyone even on stand she had a dream months before i supposedly molested her in this dream I was molesting her and when I finally did it matched her dream perfectly. She admitted to watching movies about little girls being molested and watching U-Tube videos about child molesting all before it happened supposedly to her. Doesn't that sound very unusual that a non molested 9 yr old would need to know so much about being molested? The only reason I could think a 9 year old would need so much information is to be prepared to know what to say and be able to say how it felt what took place etc.. So when questioned by authorities she would be prepared. And there again sir if a parent is pre grooming a 9 year old child she would need intimate details . Like telling her daughter about a couple moles on my private area. The child admitted to sneaking my cell and looking many many times at nudes of me and my girlfriend even one where my penis was entering my girlfriends vagina. In that picture my moles are obvious. Yet when prosecutor showed everyone in court my privates and pictures of the moles she said the only way the child would know about them is if she saw them for herself. My attorney once again said nothing about the pictures my child saw. Or could a ex-wife be able to describe my moles to help her case against getting rid of me? I beg you help me. This is my very existence. Ive lost everything , a good job, a wonderful girlfriend, my freedom, but worse thing Ive lost is my children. They were my reason to get up every morning and strive to be better. The wonderful bond I had with my Serenity is gone. After this I would be afraid to even hug her for fear of what next can they do to me. I'm not afraid to tell you I sit here in this cell and try to hold back my tears. Everyone knows you cant show weakness in prison. My life has already been threatened here at Wabash Valley Prison. After only 3 days of arrival. I was tricked into signing a waiver now Im in G Block General Population with 6 child molesting felony charges. Mrs. Hart as a 18 year old I almost died hooked to machines in hospital almost 1 month and now I know that fear was childish compared to this . I cant help but put emotions in this, after all Mrs. Hart Im human and God help Me I never been more afraid in my life. I didnt hurt my little girl I didnt touch her sexually. As much as it shreds me and fills my mind what Im facing I worry more about my mom and granny because of their great love for me mam they are suffering so deeply. I aint done this things but my loved ones suffering right along beside me and If you take my case you will be in essence freeing them also. I sent momma this letter and asked her to email it to you. I'm scared I have been done so unjustly by our legal system and I need you to fix this and give me freedom. I ask you please don't just ignore my pleas. Here in America its nice to be able to trust our legal justice system, well they destroyed my and my loved ones trust in our justice system . And I'm trusting in You !!! My entire family is suffering this nightmare with me. My 77 year old granny had a stroke and isn't doing so well. My single mother that raised 3 kids alone is dying from Lupus and since my arrest has stayed so sick and weary. Our lives torn to peices by a government I was taught I could trust in. my momma has tried so many innocent project and wrongfully accused and cant get anywhere. please please help me. A quote from the late Nelson Mandela: To be free is not merely to cast off ones chains, But to live in a way that respects and enhances The Freedom Of Others. I have Faith in you and your clinic to cast my chains off and give me freedom I do deserve as a wrongfully accused Man, son, brother, father, friend. Matthew Major DOC# 246179 Cause # : 53c02-1308-FA-000779 God Bless you. Please contact me with your decision so I know you made a life changing decision for me , just please at least write me so I know you care enough about your citizens to respond to cries for your help. You can speak openly with my mother Charlotte Spain (828) 476-0406: 71 Lakeview Dr. Canton, NC 28716 Thank You Matthew Major I know yall get thousands of request and inmates claiming innocence, and each person who are innocent deserve to have organizations like yours willing to fight for them and I give yall so much Thanks and I thank God everyday yall are out there caring enough to help free the innocents. Since discovering firsthand how easily lives and families can be destroyed by Poor Defense attorneys not doing their job . And Prosecutors allowed to do as they please in court

  5. 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.

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