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Leadership in Law 2014: Hon. Frances C. Gull

Judge, Allen Superior Court, Fort Wayne • Valparaiso University Law School, 1983

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15col-Gull.jpg Hon. Frances C. Gull (Photo by Steve Linsenmayer)

Hon. Frances C. Gull is recognized as an exemplary judge by her colleagues on the Allen County bench and her peers throughout the state. She is known to be diligent, fair and thoughtful in her decisions. A Superior Court judge since 1997 and currently the administrative judge of its criminal division, Fran has served on numerous committees addressing judicial administration, juries, and technology. She is routinely asked to participate in the orientation of new judges in the state, which shows how highly she is regarded by her fellow judges. Fran has supported SCAN – Stop Child Abuse and Neglect – for more than 20 years. As supervising judge of the jury office and staff, she oversaw the update of the jury software system and statutory jury plan.

Why did the court update its jury software system and move to Web-based jury questionnaires and text messaging notifications of jury duty?

We updated our software to keep up with the newest technology available. We offered to conduct a beta test for our software vendor to take advantage of that technology. We try to encourage as many of our citizens as possible to serve on juries, so making it easier for them to perform that civic duty is my goal.

What feedback have you heard from people regarding these changes?

They love it! Jurors had been asking if they could fill out an online questionnaire for some time, so having the ability to do so via the Internet, or by telephone, or the traditional mail has resulted in better yield of folks showing up to serve. And the text messaging has been quite interesting, giving jurors the ability to communicate with our office 24/7.

You’ve presided over the Allen County Drug Court since 2001 and are working to establish a Veterans Court in the county. Why is it important for counties to have these various problem-solving courts?

It is critical that courts offer evidence-based programming to offenders to help them change their behavior. Problem-solving courts are the best way to let defendants participate in their own rehabilitation to conquer their addictions and reform their lives. If people really want to change, these courts give them the best chance to do so, all the while holding them accountable for their choices and ensuring community safety. With shrinking budgets and fewer prison beds, it is imperative that offenders have programs in place to motivate them to change.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I am an avid gardener and love to cook. I preserve most of the produce and fruit from my garden. … I make the best raspberry vinegar and awesome garlic dill pickles! And I was privileged to skydive with the US Army’s elite parachute team, the Golden Knights, the same team that Chuck Norris and President Bush jumped with!

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

I would own a farm-to-table restaurant, growing and producing the food to be served at my restaurant.

What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

Prioritize your family over your work. While work and careers are important since they do pay the bills, work should not define who you are as a person. You mustn’t let your work consume you, always make time to appreciate your family and keep your friends close to you. I define myself as a wife, mother, sister, friend and judge.

What’s something you’ve learned over the years that you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?

Pick your battles, and focus your time and attention on the things that are within your control. You are responsible for your own happiness, and you are responsible for the amount of chaos you allow in your life.

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

UCC and tax!

What’s been the biggest change in the practice of law you’ve seen since you began?

The rise of technology in our profession has been dramatic. When I began we used paper calendars and researched in actual books, both of which I still do, but now everything is electronic and web-based.

Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

As in any profession, the “bad apples” tend to get all the attention and notoriety, which leads to the negative stereotypes. The vast majority of lawyers I know don’t fit these negative images. Additionally, it is unfortunate that the media offers over 30 hours per week of television programming focusing on lawyers and the legal system, as most of that programming is unrealistic.

What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

My most memorable job prior to becoming an attorney was as a third-shift nurses’ aide in a nursing home while I attended college.

We hear a lot about civility. Have you noticed a change in how attorneys treat each other since you began practicing?

I am fortunate to live and work in a jurisdiction that has always demanded civility of its bar. The attorneys I see daily are not only the best and the brightest the profession has to offer, but the most civil as well. I hear of attorneys treating each other and the court disrespectfully, yet here in Allen County, an attorney’s word is their bond. I treat the attorneys with respect and I am pleased to say it is mutual.
 
Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

Of course there is, but I try not to dwell on it or live in the past. I have learned from that moment in my career and I’ve not repeated it.

What civic cause is the most important to you?

I have supported SCAN (Stop Child Abuse and Neglect) for over 20 years. Children are society’s most precious and most vulnerable members, and SCAN offers them and their parents the best chance to grow up healthy.

Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?

Atticus Finch. At that time and in that place, his courage and strength were inspirational.


 

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  1. I work with some older lawyers in the 70s, 80s, and they are sharp as tacks compared to the foggy minded, undisciplined, inexperienced, listless & aimless "youths" being churned out by the diploma mill law schools by the tens of thousands. A client is generally lucky to land a lawyer who has decided to stay in practice a long time. Young people shouldn't kid themselves. Experience is golden especially in something like law. When you start out as a new lawyer you are about as powerful as a babe in the cradle. Whereas the silver halo of age usually crowns someone who can strike like thunder.

  2. YES I WENT THROUGH THIS BEFORE IN A DIFFERENT SITUATION WITH MY YOUNGEST SON PEOPLE NEED TO LEAVE US ALONE WITH DCS IF WE ARE NOT HURTING OR NEGLECT OUR CHILDREN WHY ARE THEY EVEN CALLED OUT AND THE PEOPLE MAKING FALSE REPORTS NEED TO GO TO JAIL AND HAVE A CLASS D FELONY ON THERE RECORD TO SEE HOW IT FEELS. I WENT THREW ALOT WHEN HE WAS TAKEN WHAT ELSE DOES THESE SCHOOL WANT ME TO SERVE 25 YEARS TO LIFE ON LIES THERE TELLING OR EVEN LE SAME THING LIED TO THE COUNTY PROSECUTOR JUST SO I WOULD GET ARRESTED AND GET TIME HE THOUGHT AND IT TURNED OUT I DID WHAT I HAD TO DO NOT PROUD OF WHAT HAPPEN AND SHOULD KNOW ABOUT SEEKING MEDICAL ATTENTION FOR MY CHILD I AM DISABLED AND SICK OF GETTING TREATED BADLY HOW WOULD THEY LIKE IT IF I CALLED APS ON THEM FOR A CHANGE THEN THEY CAN COME AND ARREST THEM RIGHT OUT OF THE SCHOOL. NOW WE ARE HOMELESS AND THE CHILDREN ARE STAYING WITH A RELATIVE AND GUARDIAN AND THE SCHOOL WON'T LET THEM GO TO SCHOOL THERE BUT WANT THEM TO GO TO SCHOOL WHERE BULLYING IS ALLOWED REAL SMART THINKING ON A SCHOOL STAFF.

  3. Family court judges never fail to surprise me with their irrational thinking. First of all any man who abuses his wife is not fit to be a parent. A man who can't control his anger should not be allowed around his child unsupervised period. Just because he's never been convicted of abusing his child doesn't mean he won't and maybe he hasn't but a man that has such poor judgement and control is not fit to parent without oversight - only a moron would think otherwise. Secondly, why should the mother have to pay? He's the one who made the poor decisions to abuse and he should be the one to pay the price - monetarily and otherwise. Yes it's sad that the little girl may be deprived of her father, but really what kind of father is he - the one that abuses her mother the one that can't even step up and do what's necessary on his own instead the abused mother is to pay for him???? What is this Judge thinking? Another example of how this world rewards bad behavior and punishes those who do right. Way to go Judge - NOT.

  4. Right on. Legalize it. We can take billions away from the drug cartels and help reduce violence in central America and more unwanted illegal immigration all in one fell swoop. cut taxes on the savings from needless incarcerations. On and stop eroding our fourth amendment freedom or whatever's left of it.

  5. "...a switch from crop production to hog production "does not constitute a significant change."??? REALLY?!?! Any judge that cannot see a significant difference between a plant and an animal needs to find another line of work.

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