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IBA: Getting to Know Buchanan Winner Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson

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magnus-stinson-jane-mug Magnus-Stinson

Many say that mentoring is essential to a successful legal career. With the nature of the modern practice it seems less and less time is allotted for it. So, many choose instead to pattern their careers after role models. Judge Jane Magnus-Stinson, the 2012 recipient of the Paul H. Buchanan Jr. Award of Excellence, is a role model for many. The Indianapolis Bar Association posed some questions to “Judge Jane,” as she prefers to be known, to learn more about this exceptional lawyer and jurist.

How did you find your way to law school?

My job right out of college that was not particularly satisfying. I decided I needed to further my education to have a rewarding career. A friend suggested I was suited to law school and practicing law, so I applied. I am glad he did.

How did you find your way to the Bench?

I worked for the litigation firm Lewis, Bowman, St. Clair and Wagner (now Lewis Wagner.) The firm was much smaller then, so as a young lawyer I was able to actually try cases very early in my career. I fell in love with the courtroom, and that is where my desire to become a judge was born. That desire was intensified after my exposure to public service working for Governor Evan Bayh, where part of my responsibilities involved advising the governor on the selection of judges to fill judicial vacancies. Ultimately, then-Governor Bayh helped me find my way by appointing me to the bench in Marion County, and recommending me for nomination to the federal bench. His support was critical and greatly appreciated.

Now that you’re a federal judge, do you find any benefit in local bar involvement?

I have found a benefit in local bar involvement since first becoming a lawyer. The Indianapolis Bar Association offers a judge or lawyer the full package of opportunities: fellowship with colleagues, educational enrichment, and community service.

How has your community involvement impacted your legal career?

I have had the pleasure of working with fellow lawyers on IndyBar committees that have been of significant impact to our community. While working with the Pro Bono Standing Committee, programs involving advocacy for juveniles, legal advice to terminally ill indigent people, and low-cost wills for the elderly were started or grown. I am currently chairing the Bar Leader Series through which younger lawyers are developing projects to address community needs on issues ranging from child health to cleaning up vacant property. All of these experiences are impactful because they reinforce the legal profession as a force to eliminate injustice and to solve the problems of those in need. I have also been privileged to serve on various nonprofit boards such as Big Sisters of Central Indiana and Wishard Foundation which provided invaluable education about problems in our community. Some of the same problems also presented themselves in the judicial setting. For example, Big Sisters taught me that mentors can make a dramatic difference in the life of an at-risk child, and young people in the criminal justice system almost uniformly lacked role models. So while I served as supervising judge of the Marion Superior Probation Department we implemented a mentoring program for young offenders. My work with Wishard educated me to the value of neighborhood based services and we began satellite offices for probation so that probationers would be able to gain easier access to their officers.

Do you have regret in your career?

While I certainly have made mistakes along the way, I have learned much from them. So, no regrets, just life lessons.

What’s your passion?

My passion is raising my daughters to be happy, healthy, responsible, self-sufficient members of society.

What are you most grateful for?

I am most grateful for my husband, daughters, parents, siblings, friends, colleagues, staff and church community. In short, the people who comprise my “village.”

Registration for the luncheon, which will be at the Downtown Hilton at noon on March 22, is now open on the Bar’s website, www.indybar.org. Cost is $30 per person.•
 

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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