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IndyBar: Interrogatories

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By Tyler D. Helmond, Voyles Zahn & Pauls

Honorable Mark A. Jones
Marion Circuit Court
 

jones Jones

He is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington and the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He was a staff attorney at the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, a chief counsel at the Indiana Attorney General’s office, a chief trial counsel at the Marion County Public Defender Agency, and a private practitioner before taking the bench as a master commissioner in Marion Circuit Court. He is Mark Jones, and he has been served with interrogatories.

What are your most favorite and least favorite aspects of being a trial court judge?

Most favorite is getting to see some incredibly good advocacy by various members of our bar, especially when it is done in the context of—yes, I’ll use the word—“civility.” It’s fun and an honor to be a part of a case in which well-prepared lawyers can “go at it” without getting personal with one another, who can vehemently disagree with each other but at the same time respect the other’s well-thought-out and presented positions. A close second would be the law geek in me getting to drill down into some issue I’ve dealt with either none at all or very little in the past.

 My least favorite is, probably, the opposite of the first: hearing a case with a lawyer who hasn’t prepared the case or hasn’t kept up with changes in the law. I understand well that a lawyer is frequently “stuck” with the facts his or her client may have created, but it is very frustrating — and frankly sometimes embarrassing — when there’s an apparent lack of effort to familiarize oneself with one’s own facts or the law, or both (and I’m not talking about the situation where someone is arguing for their reasonable interpretation of the law or for a change in the law).

Your duties include presiding over civil driver’s license litigation and requests for name changes. There seems to be a high rate of pro se representation in those areas. What is most challenging about handling cases with pro se litigants?

 I don’t know if it’s the most challenging, but at least one of the biggest challenges is ensuring the pro se litigants’ rights and access to the courts and justice without becoming their advocate. The trial rules and policies of the courts require that litigants file and present their own pleadings, motions and proposed orders, which are sometimes counterbalanced by the system’s needs to move and dispose of cases in order to make room for the next cases for the next litigants to be heard. The pro se litigant’s case frequently takes more time, whether it’s necessary for me to later prepare the final orders or, during a hearing, taking the time to advise the litigant what’s necessary for the case to get to the next step in order for him or her to be heard, without giving him or her legal advice and without me inserting myself as an advocate for one side or the other.

 The NCAA made a commercial several years ago that included a robed judge playing basketball. Who would be your number one draft pick from the Marion Superior Court bench?

I have no idea. Maybe Judge Shaheed for his height, Judge Rosenberg for his ability to “box-out.”

 What has been the most satisfying moment of your legal career?

Throwing Jim Voyles off track while he was questioning a witness during a deposition by slowly opening a Hershey’s kiss across the table from him. Kidding aside, it’s hard to pinpoint one moment given the fact I’ve been blessed to practice for so long in so many different capacities. Knowing that I’ve given something my best shot, whether it’s as a litigator or a judicial officer and whether I win or lose (or get reversed), I generally feel good about it (I still really liked to win as a litigator …) .

 Hypothetically, you’re wrongfully convicted of a crime and you serve 10 years in prison. You are released in downtown Indianapolis at 5:30 p.m. Where are you going for dinner?

Depends upon how much money was in my commissary fund and whether I’d received a settlement yet… Grecian Garden versus St. Elmo’s.

 What is your favorite flavor of Sun King?

Osiris Pale Ale, though admittedly I’m not familiar with all that Sun King has to offer.

 Are you a Mac or are you a PC?

Mac at home, PC at work.

 What book is currently on your night stand?

“Humongous Zits, a Zits Treasury” by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman (a must read by any parent of a teenager or teenagers, especially a son); “A Wanted Man” by Lee Child; and “Flat Belly Diet! For Men,” by Liz Vaccariello and D. Milton Stokes (obviously haven’t opened the last book recently).•

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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