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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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  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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