Chesterton Tribune

 

 

DeBoer and Peters vie to be county's top judge

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Republican Mary DeBoer will face a challenge from Democrat Mitch Peters for the bench of Porter Circuit Court.

The Chesterton Tribune invited DeBoer and Peters to respond to candidate questionnaires. The Tribune set word limits and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) For DeBoer: Age, place of residence, law school, terms on the bench. 53; Valparaiso; Valparaiso University School of Law, 1993; appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb to the Circuit Court in November 2019 to fill the vacancy created by Judge Mary Harper’s retirement.

For Peters: Age, place of residence, place of practice, law school. 63; resides in Morgan Township, pratices in Valparaiso.

(2) Why are you seeking election to the bench of the Porter Circuit Court? (75 words)

DeBoer: Porter County will benefit from my high energy, enthusiasm, unbeatable work ethic, and fresh vision in building bridges with other stakeholders in our community and bringing innovative programs for our youth and adults. I will improve upon and organize court scheduling to move civil and criminal cases through the system more efficiently. Porter County needs a competent and experienced female judge to bring a unique perspective to our judiciary to keep our court in balance.

Peters: I am seeking your vote as Porter Circuit Court Judge because I am the best person for the position. My life experience and my legal experience make me uniquely qualified to address the issues and render compassionate justice. My decades of service to our community, coupled with my diverse and extensive background in the legal profession, have given me the discernment and knowledge to move forward in this period of transition which we are experiencing.

(3) For DeBoer: Describe your achievements on the bench (125 words). Protecting children caught in the crossfire of their parents’ litigious divorces and custody battles.

Helping to obtain $50,000 for an Adult Guardianship Program in Porter County which provides court-appointed guardians for incapacitated adults who have no one to care for them. We will qualify for a $75,000 grant in 2021.

Creating a Mediation Clinic to provide free mediation to families who cannot afford attorneys to help them work through divorce-related issues.

Our team brought $60,000 in grant money to Porter County for opioid programs. We are awaiting an additional $60,000 in grant moneys for substance abuse and recovery programming in 2021.

Our team created a certified evidence-based Truancy Court to hold parents accountable and to return children to school.

For Peters: Describe your qualifications for the bench (125 words). I have the understanding and demeanor necessary to fulfill the responsibilities of Porter Circuit Court Judge. As a civil trial attorney, appellate counsel, former deputy prosecutor and long-term public defender, I have a diverse background and understanding of the law which directly applies to the types of cases handled by this Court as well as the oversight of the Juvenile Court system. My enduring commitment and community involvement concerning mental health and addiction issues for the last 30 years make me uniquely aware and qualified in regards to programming and resources available for the effective treatment of those who come before me. I ascribe to this principle: “Jail is for people we are afraid of, not people that we are mad at.”

(4) What are the key issues in this race? (150 words)

DeBoer: Protecting our children. I work tirelessly to protect, help, and arm our youth to become healthy productive adults in our community.

Protecting our community from violence. As a judicial representative on the Mayor’s Commission Against Domestic Violence and judge who hears serious felony cases, I do everything within the confines of the law to ensure that victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse have a forum without violating the rights of the accused.

Leaving people better than we found them. Recognizing that we must balance providing criminal defendants with recovery or mental health services while protecting our community from the harm they inflict on us. There is no blanket fix for all people.

Since one-half of Porter County’s population is comprised of women, we need at least one experienced and qualified female judge in Porter County to preserve balance on our judiciary and to effectively serve this county.

Peters: I think the key issue is real experience. I have been an attorney for over 36 years and have had a very diverse practice which encompasses all areas of the law: appellate, civil, and criminal. I am admitted to practice before all state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court. I have litigated cases at every level. While I have a significant amount of trial experience, more importantly, I have resolved thousands of civil and criminal cases without the necessity of trial and I understand implicitly how the judicial process functions in every aspect. My life experiences, as a veteran, recovering from personal addiction for almost 32 years, opening a halfway house and building a second, and addressing addiction and mental illness at all levels, provides me with the necessary insight and understanding to resolve the cases appearing before the Circuit and Juvenile Courts.

(5) Does the judiciary have any role in addressing Porter County’s opioid crisis? Or is that more properly a matter for law enforcement? (75 words)

DeBoer: The judiciary absolutely has a role in addressing the opioid crisis! Judges must uphold the law in every opioid case before them and consider how to help those suffering from substance abuse disorders with their recoveries, while being mindful of keeping our community safe from those committing crimes in furtherance of their addiction. We can and do also get training and obtain grants to use for opioid programs in Porter County.

Peters: For years Porter County failed to acknowledge a drug problem existed, until it was suddenly declared an “opioid crisis.” As our children die of overdoses or are incarcerated for years on drug-related offenses, we have begun to look at the issue from a broader perspective. The Court is ultimately responsible for addressing the issue, through treatment, incarceration, or both, as a majority of cases that come before the Court have their genesis in addiction.

(6) What is your view on plea bargaining? (75 words)

DeBoer: Our criminal justice system couldn’t exist without plea agreements. We don’t have the time or resources to conduct jury trials in every criminal case. But the plea must be appropriate considering the nature and severity of the crime(s). I often reject pleas when the sentence is unjust given the defendant’s criminal history, the defendant’s lack of remorse, the impact of the plea on the victim(s), or when the sentence fails to protect society.

Peters: In 2019, plea agreements or dismissals resolved 2,554 criminal cases of the 5,314 total cases which came before this court. Plea agreements are essential in the resolution of criminal cases. The prosecution and defense are best able to assess a case’s strength or weakness and propose a just resolution for the Court’s consideration.

(7) Indiana Code provides, for first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, the imposition of the death penalty. As a matter of principle, do you support or oppose capital punishment? (75 words)

DeBoer: Whether I support or oppose capital punishment does not matter. As a judge, my role is to apply the law to the case before me regardless of my personal opinions on a particular issue. Judges must be diligent in maintaining the appearance of impartiality and staying neutral on hot-button issues. We do not want to put ourselves in the position of having to recuse ourselves because we’ve voiced opinions that make us appear biased.

Peters: The Code of Judicial Conduct provides that a candidate shall not “make statements that commit or appear to commit the candidate with respect to cases, controversies, or issues that are likely to come before the court.” I believe that to answer this question would be in violation of this Code. I will emphasize that I am duty bound to uphold the law regardless of my personal views or beliefs and I will.

(8) Candidates for the bench run as Republicans or Democrats. Does a judge’s political affiliation have any bearing on his or her philosophy of justice? (75 words)

DeBoer: Political affiliation does not impact my philosophy of justice one iota. My background, my work experiences, and my life experiences clearly guide me as a judge. A good judge must possess common sense, empathy, and intellect, yet have the wisdom to apply those to determining which parent gets custody of a child or in deciding whether a criminal gets jail time or probation. Politics has no place in a courtroom.

Peters: I believe my “Philosophy of Justice” is based upon my life experience and extensive and diverse legal experience. I do not believe my political affiliation has a direct or indirect impact on my view of justice. The law is guided by sociology, based upon custom, history, logic, and philosophy. In the final analysis, the law is guided by a sense of social justice. See generally The Nature of the Legal Process by Benjamin N. Cardozo.

 

 

Posted 9/24/2020

 
 
 
 

 

 

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