The first Hispanic judge on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana has officially taken his seat on the bench.
Mario Garcia was sworn in Monday as a magistrate judge for the Indiana Southern District Court, the federal court announced.
Garcia was selected for the magistrate judge position by the sitting judges of the Indiana Southern District from a pool of 31 applicants. He is filling a newly created seat on the bench authorized in September by the Judicial Conference of the United States.
“The court welcomes Judge Garcia with open arms,” Chief Judge Tanya Walton Pratt said in a Monday statement. “While in private practice, Judge Garcia treated every client with great dignity and respect, and we know that he will bring those same qualities to the bench.”
A Bloomington native, Garcia attended Ball State University and Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law before beginning his legal career at the firm that became Brattain Minnix Garcia. He became a partner in 2008 and rose to the position of managing member, practicing as a registered civil mediator and in court in both civil and criminal cases. He has appeared in more than 500 hearings in Indiana state and federal court in the last five years, the Southern District said.
The Federal Community Defender’s Office selected Garcia to lead the response to pro se compassionate release filings under the First Step Act, a role that he told Indiana Lawyer commanded more of his attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. He has also provided pro bono services to participants in the Southern District’s Re-Entry and Community Help, or REACH, Program for the last 10 years.
“His diligence and passion for upholding the law and ensuring access to justice will serve him well as he embarks on his judicial career,” Chief Judge Pratt said. “We are thrilled to have him as a member of the court family.”
Garcia and Pratt share something in common other than their seats on the bench: Both have marked significant diversity milestones for the Indiana Southern District Court. While Garcia is the first person of Hispanic heritage to serve on the Southern District bench, Pratt is the first person of color to serve as its chief judge.
“Just being given this rare opportunity to serve the people of the Southern District of Indiana as a United States magistrate judge is something I don’t take lightly. To be able to accept the position as the first of Hispanic heritage is almost unimaginable to me,” Garcia told Indiana Lawyer. “… I hope my serving in this position gives anyone who comes to our court and sees the good work that we do here the idea that with an education, determination, and hard work, they could be a judge, too.”
Garcia’s other involvement in the legal community includes previously serving as a member of the Southern District of Indiana’s Criminal Justice Act Panel and former chair of Indiana Federal Community Defenders Inc. As a magistrate judge, he will continue to serve as a judicial officer for the REACH Program on an as-needed basis and will also remain on the Southern District’s Local Rules Advisory Committee.
Outside of the law, Garcia volunteers with the Alzheimer’s Association Greater Indiana Chapter. He has been a trustee and vice chairman of the board of trustees for The Orchard School and a member of the board of directors for La Plaza Inc. The latter was formerly The Hispanic Center Inc., where Garcia was board chairman.
Garcia will serve an eight-year term before being eligible for reappointment. He will be tasked with presiding over pretrial proceedings in civil and criminal cases, including conducting mediation and settlement proceedings in civil cases.
“I am honored and excited to assume the role of magistrate judge and join an esteemed group of colleagues on the federal bench,” Garcia said in a Monday statement.
“For over 21 years I have worked hard to build a resume of experience across a wide range of practice areas, in judicial forums large and small,” he said. “I look forward to working hard to advance cases in our busy court, dispensing justice fairly and efficiently, and welcoming all parties and counsel who will appear before me.”