Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
Perhaps as a reflection of his time in the U.S. Air Force, Cass Superior Judge Richard Maughmer ran his court in a no-nonsense manner, and lawyers practicing before him knew they had better be on time, be prepared and follow the rules.
“I respected him dearly,” said Yamir Gonzalez Velez, president of the Cass County Bar Association. “He was very stern, very strict, but very compassionate.”
The Cass County legal community and the Indiana judiciary were in mourning Tuesday following Maughmer’s death in a tragic accident at his home Monday evening.
According to a report from the Cass County Sheriff’s Department, deputies were called to the 8000 block of County Road 50 East about 8:26 p.m. When they arrived, they found Maughmer trapped beneath the vehicle. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Maughmer, 65, joined the bench when Cass Superior Court 2 was opened in January 2001, being the first and only judge to preside over that court. According to court staff, Cass Superior Court 1 Judge James Muehlhausen and Circuit Judge Stephen Kitts II included his caseload on their individual dockets Tuesday and were overwhelmed.
Indiana Chief Justice Loretta Rush knew Maughmer for more than 30 years. She highlighted his service as chair of the Judicial Administration Committee, where he led the entire judicial branch in a time and efficiency study.
In addition, Rush praised his “professionalism and enthusiasm” in helping the courts examine how to improve the administration of justice.
“Judge Maughmer was one of the finest judges that I have ever known,” Rush said in a statement. “He was a wonderful person, and he served his state and his country well. … The judicial branch shares in the grief of Judge Maughmer’s family, including his wife Vicki and their children.”
A native of Cass County, Maughmer received his J.D. degree from the University of Nebraska and returned home in 1979 to start practicing in Logansport, according to a 2012 profile in the Indiana Court Times. He was appointed as the Cass County prosecutor in 1986, a position he held until he was elected to the bench.
Nine months and 15 days in his tenure as a judge, Maughmer was recalled to active duty in the Air Force as a result of the Global War on Terrorism. He credited then-Chief Justice Randall Shepard and the state judiciary, along with his court staff and the Cass County bar, with helping him handle his judicial duties during what he called his “prolonged and then periodic absences.”
Attorney Robert Justice recalled waiting in Maughmer’s courtroom with other lawyers on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when their attention was diverted by the terrorist attacks. Justice knew the judge well, having represented defendants when Maughmer was a prosecutor.
“He understood Cass County,” Justice said.
In court, Maughmer would be honest and forthright with the defendants, and mostly accepted the plea agreements offered by the parties. He did not have much patience for people who wasted time, although when working with attorneys in his chambers, he would show his sense of humor.
Maughmer completed Judicial College in 2008 and attended the graduate program for judges in 2011-2012. Also, he was a member of several judiciary committees, including the Ethics and Professionalism Committee from 2001 to 2007 and the Board of Directors of the Judicial Conference of Indiana from 2016 through 2018. Most recently, he was appointed to the Indiana Judges Association Civil Instructions Committee.
Cass County Prosecutor Lisa Swaim said she and all the other attorneys going into Maughmer’s courtroom were expected to be prepared and efficient, but the judge was fair and highly intelligent. He also paid attention to the people who came before him and he had a soft spot for children, always being especially kind to them.
“He was a tremendous jurist and a resource for everyone in the community,” Swaim said. “He had a high standard and he expected everyone to live up to that, including himself. He absolutely lived up to the standard he set.”
Velez was familiar with the high standard, recalling Maughmer would throw a look if he thought the attorney was trying to sneak something past him.
“He made you want to be a better lawyer,” Velez said. “I didn’t want to disappoint him.”