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Senior Judge Jonathan Robertson dies

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has lost a former chief judge who had authored more majority opinions than any of his colleagues during his nearly three decades on the appellate bench.

Judge Jonathan J. Robertson, 76, died about 5:20 p.m. Monday at his home in southern Indiana. He had been diagnosed about four months ago with lung cancer, according to his son, Joe Robertson. The legal community is remembering a man who served his country in the military and public service, and who always kept a sense of humor and had the ability to make everyone smile.

"He was a true patriot who loved his state, country, family, and the law," said Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge John G. Baker, a friend who has known the family for more than 30 years. "He was really a quiet cheerleader for all that's good in our business."

Born in Jackson County, Judge Robertson earned his law degree from Vanderbilt University School of Law in 1961 and practiced privately in Seymour until becoming a prosecuting attorney for Jackson County. He served as counsel to the Indiana House of Representatives for a year in 1963, and in 1965 became Jackson Circuit judge until his election to the appellate bench in 1970.

Judge Robertson was part of the last group of appellate jurists to be elected before a constitutional change converted Indiana to a merit selection system in 1971. Since then, he was retained by retention vote three times.

During his time on the Indiana Court of Appeals, Judge Robertson served as chief judge from 1975 to 1978, and was widely seen as one of the most prolific members of the court with his record-setting authoring of more than 3,000 majority opinions.

Judge Robertson partially retired from the appellate court in 1998, but continued serving as senior judge at that level and in southern Indiana's trial courts. His son said the judge had stopped serving at the trial level recently because of his illness, but that he'd continued working up to the end for the appellate court.

Prior to law school, Judge Robertson served in the U.S. Army from 1954 to 1956. He was honorably discharged as a corporal.

His family, friends, and colleagues say they will remember his sense of humor and ability to make anyone smile.

"That sense of humor never left him," the judge's son said. "He always had a joke, always had something nice to say about someone. That will be a hallmark of his life."

Details are being finalized today for funeral services, but his son said a calling will take place Friday afternoon and evening at the Spurgeon Funeral Home in Brownstown. The funeral is expected to take place Saturday.

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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