Allen Superior Judge John F. Surbeck Jr. received the 2012 William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts, the nonprofit organization announced Tuesday. The award is presented annually to a state court judge who exemplifies the highest level of judicial excellence, integrity, fairness, and professional ethics.
NCSC President Mary C. McQueen said that Surbeck is an inspiration and an example to everyone who works in the justice system.
Surbeck is the founder of reentry courts in Indiana and considered nationally to be a “trailblazer” in this area. The Indiana Legislature in 1999 passed a law known as the Community Transition Statute, which allows each county to develop its own transition program for inmates at the Department of Correction. In 2000, he worked with others to design the Allen County Reentry Court, which opened in July 2001. His decision to create the court came from his professional experience as a public defender from 1972 to 1988. He was appointed to Superior Court in 1988.
Five years after establishing the court, statistics show that the program has reduced the rate of prisoners reoffending to 34 percent, compared to nearly 60 percent nationally.
“Judge Surbeck has made a tremendous and long-lasting impact on the courts of Indiana and elsewhere and has brought fresh ideas and a proven track record to the seemingly intractable problem of recidivism,” Indiana Chief Justice Brent E. Dickson and Lilia Judson, executive director, Division of State Court Administration, said in a letter of reference for the award.
Surbeck will receive his award from Chief Justice of the United States John G. Roberts Jr. Nov. 15 during a ceremony at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.