Trailblazing Monroe Co. judge Taliaferro dies at 94

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Judge Viola J. Taliaferro — who was considered an icon and groundbreaker in Bloomington and the Monroe County legal profession — died this month at 94.

Taliaferro, known as “Vi,” died June 11. A homegoing service was held Monday.

“A 1977 graduate of the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Taliaferro entered the legal profession later in life, but wasted no time making an immediate — and lasting — impact on her local community,” the IU Maurer School of Law wrote in a Facebook tribute. 

Viola Taliaferro (Photo from

Taliaferro already had a career when she began studying at what is now called IU Maurer. She graduated in 1977 and opened her own firm, focusing on family and criminal law cases.

In 1989, Taliaferro was appointed as magistrate judge for the Monroe Circuit Court. Then in 1995, she was appointed judge of Monroe Circuit Court 7, becoming the first Black person to be appointed judge for the Monroe Circuit Court.

While on the bench, she focused on paternity, probate, mental health commitment and juvenile cases until her retirement in 2004.

She also served as a consultant to U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno and was part of the National Research Council on Juvenile Crime and the American Law Institute.

The Indiana State Bar Association presents an award in Taliaferro’s honor, the Viola J. Taliaferro Award, which is given to an individual or group for their extraordinary efforts on behalf of children. IU Maurer’s Family and Children Mediation Clinic is also named after her.

Also at IU, Taliaferro was recognized with the Indiana University Distinguished Alumni Award.

In its Facebook post, IU Maurer quoted local attorney Maryann Williams, who worked closely with the judge.

“She could dress them down, but she always respected the kids who found themselves in her court,” Williams, said, according to the law school. “She believed all children should be heard, that there was always a story behind why they had run into trouble.”

Taliaferro is survived by her four daughters, Linda, Renee, Donna and Terri; her grandchildren, Ryan, Micah, Joel, Loren, Raimond, Danielle and Laura; her great-grandchildren, Zoe and Audrina; numerous nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews; and her oldest and dearest friend, Rebecca “Becky” Griffin.

Condolences, photos and memories can be shared with family and friends via Allen Funeral Home and Crematory.

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