With the first day of Marion County judicial retention interviews completed Monday, the Marion County Judicial Selection Committee is preparing for its final six interviews on Tuesday.
Like the applicants who went before them, Monday’s second group of judges seeking retention focused their discussions on the silo-like division of caseloads in Marion County courts and on how the new Criminal Justice Center will alter the way they work. Diversity on the bench also remained a priority for committee members and judges alike.
Here’s a look at how the second half of Monday’s applicants made their cases for retention:
Aside from their judicial qualifications, members of the Judicial Selection Committee frequently asked retention applicants about the administrative side of their jobs. For Judge Mark Stoner, administrative work translates into an opportunity to serve on committees addressing issues such as probation. Through his probation work, Stoner said he drafted a set of intrastate protocols dealing with transferring probationary periods between counties, and has also helped to refine sex offender probationary conditions so the conditions better align with the type of sex crime committed.
Stoner has had ample opportunity to deal in the world of sex offenses as a major felonies judge, which requires him to handle child molestation cases. But Stoner also presided over misdemeanor cases for a nine-month period, a change he said provided a respite from the difficulties of hearing molestation cases while also providing an opportunity to broaden his work experience.
“I think I would have been a better judge if I had done what Judge (Cale) Bradford did — heard criminal cases, then went over and to the civil side,” Stoner said.
When Judge Helen Marchal needs to hear a jury trial, there’s a major hurdle she has to jump first: finding a courtroom that has space for a jury. There have been times when Marchal has been forced to reschedule a jury trial because she couldn’t find a courtroom that was big enough, a situation she said is frustrating to all parties involved. That’s why Marchal is looking forward to the Marion County courts’ eventual move to a new Criminal Justice Center – there, she and all judges will have more space to perform basic court functions and new opportunities to expand court services.
Whether it’s a jury or bench trial, Marchal said there’s one facet of performing court services that she could always do without: confrontation. The judge readily admits that her aversion to confrontation is her biggest judicial flaw, but she said she does her best to let a confrontation play out because she knows it’s part of the process.
When it comes to making sentencing decisions, Judge Lisa Borges knows it’s rarely a cut-and-dry decision. There are numerous nuances to each case that she must consider, including the defendant’s character, criminal history and general life circumstances. Borges said she always strives to be fair when sentencing offenders and tries to operate with a basic principle in mind: she might be blamed for a sentence that’s too light, but she can always reduce a sentence that’s too harsh.
One particular sentencing decision came to mind when Borges was asked about her worst day in court. Recalling a double-murder case involving a 6-year-old girl, the judge said she painfully watched as family members cried and showed pictures of the child who was killed. Knowing that she was expected to be strong and clear-headed, Borges said she had to leave the bench to collect herself before she could continue with her judicial duties.
As one of four members of the Marion Superior Court executive committee, Judge Sheila Carlisle strives to use her role to ensure the judiciary keeps up with societal changes. Whether it’s a technological advancement or a change in the practice of law, Carlisle said she is mindful that what was the norm 20 years ago likely won’t apply today. To that end, the criminal court judge said the impending opening of the new Criminal Justice Center will provide an opportunity to explore a new way of conducting court business.
The new center will also create an opportunity to expand court services, particularly mental health services targeted toward drug offenders, Carlisle said. With the additional space a new justice center will offer, the judiciary can create an “engagement center” to direct drug offenders to the resources they need to break the cycle of addiction, she said.
The judicial retention interviews will wrap up on Tuesday morning. Follow live coverage via @Indiana_Lawyer on Twitter, and check for updates on theindianalawyer.com