Voters will decide Nov. 6 who will be the next judge of Bartholomew Superior Court I. Republican Jim Worton and independent Joe Meek are vying for the job. The winner will replace Judge Chris Monroe, who was defeated in the primary.
Office sought: Judge of Bartholomew County
Superior Court I
Party affiliation: Republican
Address: West Glenwood Drive
Occupation: Attorney, Columbus Police Department detective, adjunct professor of criminal justice at Ivy Tech
Education: Law degree from the Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis; undergraduate degrees from Indiana University; graduate from Columbus North High School
Prior elected offices and years held: None
Prior elected offices sought: None
Family: Wife of 19 years, Amberly, Children: Zach (17); Logan (15); Hannah (13); and Ryan (11). Parents, Jack Worton Sr. and Marjorie Settle, both of Columbus.
Community involvement: Free Methodist Church; former Columbus police chief; Fraternal Order of Police; Indiana Bar Association; Bartholomew County Bar Association (past vice president); Bartholomew County Domestic Violence Action Team; Bartholomew County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee; Bartholomew County Substance Abuse Council; Emergency Planning Committee; Bartholomew County Advisory Council for the Office of Emergency Preparedness.
Main message of campaign: As judge, I will bring a new perspective to the bench based on nearly 20 years of experience working with real people, in actual situations, not just the sterile environment of the courtroom.
How would Superior I operate under your control, and what changes, if any, would you make?
I will strive to increase the efficiency of the court. I will work to decrease the case backlog by dealing with the cycle of repeat probation violators. I will foster an environment of professionalism and start by treating all people who come before the court with respect. I will strive to reduce the turnaround time on orders coming from the court. I will respect my docket and strive to start and end hearings on time. I will ensure that initial hearings are held within their statutory time frames. I will also make every effort to set forth my legal reasoning when ruling on motions, rather than issuing blanket “grants” or “denials.” I will also work hard with other agencies within our justice system to strive to meet the overall goals of fairness, efficiency and an even safer community.
Bartholomew County has used a unified court services approach since the 1990s. Recently, the county’s Youth Services Center was realigned under the direction of Bartholomew County Corrections. What are the benefits of a unified system, and what are examples of ways county residents are impacted by a unified system?
There are many benefits to a unified system. One advantage is that it serves to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. In some counties, there might be separate probation departments for each court. This can create a system in which different procedures between courts could create some confusion for community members who might have been under one court’s system, then for whatever reason, might have to move into another court. Further, having separately staffed departments could also result in additional operating costs to the taxpayers. I think there is a positive effect on county residents by utilizing the unified system in that they are able to know what to expect, no matter which courtroom they might be in. If there is one set of rules, one set of guidelines and one set of expectations, then there will be a greater chance of success in that system. One of the many purposes of our criminal justice system has got to be to set people up for success.
Beyond settling court cases, what roles can and should judges play in the county?
In addition to setting cases, presiding over cases and making the day-to-day decisions of the court, judges should also be leaders in the community. Currently, members of our judiciary serve in numerous roles on community boards such as the Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee. I think that a judge’s involvement on such boards is very important. While the judge must certainly operate as an unbiased and neutral officer of the court, I think it’s important that they take what they learn from the bench and use those lessons to better other agencies and individuals in the community. Additionally, a judge must be a good listener and be willing to work with other agencies in our community. I think that one of the problems with the judiciary today is that they often seem, or perhaps are, unapproachable. I want to foster an open line of communication with other agencies and within the bar association. I believe that a good judge is a humble judge.
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