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Longtime Indiana Judicial Center education director retires after 30 years

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Judicial education inside Indiana used to be much more like law school, where a knowledgeable "professor" would stand at the front of a room and lecture to "students" in the audience about a particular topic.

Once, Indiana focused more on academic judicial education than practical forms of teaching the state's trial and appellate judges.

That was how it was three decades ago, before Cathy Springer signed on as the Indiana Judicial Center's education director. She began Feb. 5, 1980, and those intimately involved with the process credit her leadership for transforming the system into a more interactive, judge-taught process via conferences and for those jurists to keep in touch once back in their own communities.

You might not ever know her role in shaping the state's judiciary if not for historical accounts and testimony from those directly involved. Springer is modest and doesn't put the credit on her shoulders, instead noting it's been a team effort touched by many people to get where it is now. But those who've been a part of Indiana's judicial education system say the state wouldn't be a nationally recognized leader without her leadership.

"Cathy is one of those people who for years has been such a treasure for Indiana judiciary," said Gibson Superior Judge Earl Penrod, a current member of the Indiana Judicial Education Committee who chaired the group for several years.

He described her leadership as being akin to how a duck travels across a pond: she moves smoothly across the water without revealing the continuous paddling happening underwater.

"She's unflappable by appearances and makes it look easy, but there's so much incredible work and dedication she has to making this all happen," he said. "She is a hidden gem for Indiana's judges."

After her 30-year career serving the state's judiciary and helping build up the foundation for what judges do in courtrooms across the state, Indiana is now facing a changing of the educational guard as the longtime director is retiring April 30.

"I have truly enjoyed working in this field; it has been a career of a lifetime," Springer said in a news release. "I sincerely appreciate all of the support and the life lessons I have learned over the years and the valuable friendships I have made."

During her career, Springer has been a part of the judicial center team that's coordinated bench-bar conferences and various judicial education programs, including the Indiana Mentor Judge Program in the 1990s that pairs seasoned jurists with those just taking the bench. She has been a member of the National Association of State Judicial Educators and was involved in a standards committee project, which led to publication of the "Principles and Standards of Judicial Branch Education" that guides judicial curriculum development and educational policy.

In 2005, Springer taught at the Leadership Institute of Judicial Education at the University of Memphis. That allowed her to help teach a program that focused on experiential learning, adult education principles, lifespan development, intellectual and ethical development, and personal development as a means for change. She's also served on the advisory boards for the Leadership Institute and Institute for Faculty Excellence in Judicial Education.

That national experience helped her shift the state's focus, Springer said.

In those early years after she started, the state's system was focused more on legal education taught by law professors at the time, she said. But through her leadership, the system shifted to faculty development in which judges would teach judges about practical items like ethics, demeanor, and overall wellness.

In 2000, the spring judicial conferences began after Springer and a small group traveled to leadership institute in Memphis and came back with ideas about changes here. While an annual conference is spelled out by Indiana statute, it wasn't until a decade ago that the three-day conferences began to offer a typical 18-20 half- or full-day programs, she said.

"It goes way beyond a conference and programs ... it goes back with them to where they're from," Springer said. "Each judge makes decisions on their own, but coming to a conference and sharing and learning together is a critical part of the education process. It's bigger than being a judge in your own court  - you're part of a big judicial family."

Former Lake Superior Judge James Richard, who helped set up the state's judicial education system in the 1970s, agreed that Springer is a key reason why the programs are as successful as they are today. He said she has always brought people together to do what's needed, expanding the program from a law school-situated initiative to that of an entire state judiciary. That's a thought echoed by many others involved in the state and national judicial education scene.

Court of Appeals Judge Nancy Vaidik, who led the education committee for four years, said Springer's leadership helped bring more participation into the way judges are educated.

"Cathy is really looked at nationally for her guidance and what she did for Indiana's most-coveted judicial education," Judge Vaidik said. "She's created a system that will continue with her being gone and that's best characteristic of a leader. This extends her fingers into the future."

The difference from what other states do is evident every time he teaches outside Indiana and then returns for a conference or program here, according to Hamilton Superior Judge William Hughes, who's a member of the judicial education committee and has taught judicial education nationally.

"She's made an indelible mark," he said. "I've taught all over the country and seen it presented here and in other states, but those others don't have the same feel as Indiana conferences do. The big difference is they don't have Cathy Springer. We have a lot to be thankful for."

He credits Springer for first getting him involved with judicial education - something he said is now a passion of his.

"I love to teach, but I wouldn't have ever known that if Cathy hadn't encouraged me to do that for a judicial seminar once," the judge said.

One of the biggest changes she's seen in her career has been the evolution of technology and how that impacts judicial education, Springer said. Now, judges are able to keep in touch through e-mail and listservs long after attending a session or conference and information can be simply posted online for more convenience, she said.

Just because she's retiring from fulltime service, Springer expects she'll still be involved as much as possible. She plans to spend more time with family and friends, traveling, and consulting in the adult education field. The Indiana Judicial Center has launched a search for her successor.

Avoiding sole credit for the three decades of accomplishments, Springer said she hopes her legacy helps ensure Indiana's judicial education continues evolving and expanding.

"To see it can go on, that it was not just a product of one person," she said. "I hope people will continue coming together the way they have and those judges who've been here longer will continue giving back to the judiciary."

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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