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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. Linda, I sure hope you are not seeking a law license, for such eighteenth century sentiments could result in your denial in some jurisdictions minting attorneys for our tolerant and inclusive profession.

  2. Mazel Tov to the newlyweds. And to those bakers, photographers, printers, clerks, judges and others who will lose careers and social standing for not saluting the New World (Dis)Order, we can all direct our Two Minutes of Hate as Big Brother asks of us. Progress! Onward!

  3. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  4. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  5. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

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