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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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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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