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, Cost is $30 per person.•


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  1. This is ridiculous. Most JDs not practicing law don't know squat to justify calling themselves a lawyer. Maybe they should try visiting the inside of a courtroom before they go around calling themselves lawyers. This kind of promotional BS just increases the volume of people with JDs that are underqualified thereby dragging all the rest of us down likewise.

  2. I think it is safe to say that those Hoosier's with the most confidence in the Indiana judicial system are those Hoosier's who have never had the displeasure of dealing with the Hoosier court system.

  3. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  4. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  5. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.