Judge Worton to seek re-election after 5 years in office

A career lawman turned lawyer who has presided as Bartholomew County Superior Court 1 Judge for five years said he will seek re-election next year.

Jim Worton, a Republican, described his first term on the bench as “the privilege of my life.”

Serving as Columbus police chief under former Mayor Fred Armstrong, Worton was both an attorney and police detective when he ran for judge in 2012.

Worton defeated incumbent Chris Monroe, who had served a quarter-century on the bench, 54 percent to 46 percent margin in the 2012 GOP primary.

He then garnered the support of Armstrong, a Democrat, as well as three fellow Republicans: then-Sheriff Mark Gorbett, then-Columbus Police Chief Jason Maddix and Prosecutor Bill Nash.

That helped Worton win 64 percent to 36 percent victory in the November 2012 general election over magistrate Joe Meek.

Since he was a senior police detective when elected, the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission determined Worton should not be allowed to preside over criminal cases for one year to ensure judicial impartiality. The decision resulted in 400 felony cases being transferred to then-Circuit Court Judge Stephen Heimann. In exchange, about 200 civil cases consisting mostly of divorces and paternity suits were moved under Worton’s jurisdiction.

When allowed to start presiding over criminal cases in 2014, Worton was already an outspoken advocate of evidence-based practices for sentencing.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all concept, the practice utilizes scientifically tested and proven approaches and interventions to reduce offender risk and subsequent recidivism.

Evidence-based practices are prominent in creation of the Bartholomew County Veterans Court, championed by Worton.

Launched in February 2016, the problem-solving court is an 18- to 24-month, intensive second-chance program geared toward helping veterans by addressing the root causes that lead to crimes.

In June, the veterans court was lauded by Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David, a Columbus native and military veteran.

Worton’s accomplishments include completing the Indiana Graduate Program for Judges, being named to the Judicial Conference of Indiana’s Board of Directors, serving on the State’s Judicial Courthouse Security Committee, and serving on the Evidence-Based Decision-Making Team in Bartholomew County.

Worton is a member of the Indiana Judges Association, the American Judges Association, and the Bartholomew and Indiana Bar Associations.

Jim Worton

Office: Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge.

Hometown: Columbus

Experience: Columbus police officer for 19 years, chief of Police from 2008 to 2012, adjunct professor of criminal justice at Ivy Tech Community College in Columbus, elected judge in November 2012.

Education:  Graduated from Columbus North High School in 1989, and received his undergraduate degree from Indiana University. Earned his law degree in 2008 from the Indiana University School of Law in Indianapolis.

Family: Wife, Amberly. Four children.

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Mark Webber is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at mwebber@therepublic.com or 812-379-5636.