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.
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
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)
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
(3) For DeBoer:
Describe your achievements on the bench (125 words). Protecting children
caught in the crossfire of their parents’ litigious divorces and custody
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.
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.
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
(4) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
Protecting our children. I work tirelessly to protect, help, and arm our
youth to become healthy productive adults in our community.
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.
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
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)
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.
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
(6) What is your
view on plea bargaining? (75 words)
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.
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)
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.
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)
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.
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.