Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Matt Soliday and Mike Fish vie to be Porter Superior Court 1 judge

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Democrat Matt Soliday and Republican Mike Fish will vie for the open bench of Porter Superior Court 1.

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

(1) Age, place of residence, law school, terms on the bench.

Soliday: 54; Chesterton; Valparaiso University School of Law; Federal Community Defenderís Office, Hammond.

Fish: 49; residence and practice in Valparaiso; Valparaiso University School of Law.

(2) Why are you seeking election to the bench of Porter Superior Court 1? (75 words)

Soliday: My uncle was a judge and, as a young man, I was fortunate to observe him in the courtroom. That experience helped me appreciate the impact judges have on both the legal system and the people within it. I want to ensure that fairness and justice are always protected in our courts. Nothing would give me greater satisfaction than to serve as judge in the community where I have lived my entire life.

Fish: I am called to serve and passionate about helping and protecting people. I strive to follow Judge Roger Bradfordís example of offering dignity, fairness, and respect in Superior Court 1. I believe the court offers expedient dispute resolution for people in civil matters. When appropriate, in criminal sentencing, the court helps people return to a strong position as a citizen. I am well equipped to strongly sentence violent criminals to protect our great community.

(3) Describe your qualifications for the bench (125 words)

Soliday: I have practiced law for over 28 years primarily as a trial attorney. I have always served the public in various capacities as either a deputy prosecutor, deputy public defender or representing the Porter County Animal Shelter Board. As a deputy prosecutor, I tried and won more jury cases than anyone else in the office at that time. I left the prosecutor's office to serve the public as a deputy public defender. During that time, I became one of the few death penalty qualified attorneys in Porter County. I further honed my litigation skills by practicing in federal court handling complex cases. Also, I was an adjunct professor at V.U. Law School.

Fish: I bring extensive legal experience to this election along with a rich lifeís journey, as a veteran with 19 years in Army JAG Corps and 31 years total service in the National Guard. I faced one combat tour to Afghanistan and recently deployed to the Middle East and Indo-Pacific. I have deployed to and worked with armed forces from seven countries. I have a broad worldview. In 22 years of practice based in Porter County, I focused upon family matters, bankruptcy, and general litigation. I also served as Army prosecutor with JAG. With significant participation as Temporary Judge in Porter County courts—over 75 appointments in six years. Iíve sat for many bench trials and hundreds of matters. My experience is unmatched in this race.

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

Soliday: The main issue in this race is the right kind of experience. Judge Bradford will retire from the bench after 30+ years leaving big shoes to fill. The judge in this courtroom does not hear family or juvenile law cases nor bankruptcy cases. This courtís docket consists of felony criminal cases and major civil cases. The incoming judge should have experience in the criminal and civil areas of law—areas in which I have over 28 years of litigation experience. The citizens of Porter County need a judge to be able to hit the ground running and meet the demands of the job from day one. Another issue is keeping the public safe in court proceedings during this pandemic. I would fully utilize court video and phone conferences as much as possible.

Fish: Safely administering justice remains a significant concern. Providing government services while protecting high risk people and respecting risk averse people is challenging. We manage it through cooperation with county government, the bench, and bar. I will continue appropriate resolution of this dynamic problem.

Expanding virtual services to the courtís customers is the future. Expanding online dispute resolution as an alternative to face-to-face mediation creates another way to resolve litigation, saving judicial time and encouraging people to settle their matters. Litigants reach better solutions on their own terms and are happier with results they personally control.

Justice reform is ongoing. I plan to facilitate community outreach, especially to middle and high school students. I hope to connect with youth through presentations, programming (mock trials, ďWe The PeopleĒ), and other civic engagement. Stepping out from behind the bench and interacting with students promotes transparency and understanding essential right now.

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

Soliday: The courtís main role is in sentencing. There are many treatment programs the court can use to help people with drug addictions to get their life back on track. The court can also refer a person to the Porter County Drug Court and, in other cases, include drug counseling as part of a sentence. However, harsher sentences for drug dealers bringing opioids into our community are built into the sentencing penalties by the state legislature.

Fish: The entire justice system must be concerned with the opioid crisis. The court is an appropriate lead for effectively addressing the problem because it connects drug users to treatment. Sentenced users can learn tools and structure to pursue recovery. Protecting the public from violent criminals, including gangs and major drug dealers, remains essential. Incarceration is also treatment. If convicted, violent drug offenders must receive impactful sentences that disrupt drug markets and keep criminals locked up.

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

Soliday: Plea bargaining is a necessary part of the criminal justice system because of the number of cases. If no one pled guilty, then the courts would be overwhelmed. A plea agreement does not allow for criminals to escape responsibility. If someone pleads guilty and accepts responsibility for their wrongdoings and the judge finds it to be fair to the victims, then the plea agreement should be accepted.

Fish: Plea bargaining is critical, especially when victims are properly involved. An accused person willing to admit wrongdoing and accept consequences helps streamline the courtís docket. Accused people partly decide their destiny; the state is freed up to work other crimes; defense focuses on tougher cases. More cases are handled efficiently, and this results in a safer community. Justice is our most important social institution, and insofar as plea bargaining provides appropriate justice, it is favorable.

(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)

Soliday: Practicing criminal law for over 28 years, I have experience in multiple death penalty cases. Under Indiana law, the death penalty must be recommended by the jury for the court to impose the sentence. If the jury reaches a sentencing recommendation, the law requires the court to sentence the defendant accordingly. Under the judicial ethics rules, I am unable to state a personal position regarding capital punishment.

Fish: This question seeks my individual principles, but ethical rules require me not to share them. In Indiana, the prosecutor decides whether to seek a death sentence. Upon conviction, the question goes to the jury. The statute directs the court to follow a unanimous jury decision recommending death. I own no scruple that would prevent me from pronouncing the death penalty, and can perform the judicial role of imposing the death penalty as required by statute.

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

Soliday: A judgeís political affiliation should not have any bearing on his or her philosophy of justice. Policy making should be left to the legislatures who pass the laws. The judge must apply the law as set by the state legislature fairly and equally without regard to politics.

Fish: As a judge, I intend to treat everyone who comes before me fairly. I will make decisions by applying the law and understanding the facts in evidence. A person's political affiliation will not matter. The election is political, but the job is not. I hope voters realize that even if we chose different parties, I am the best candidate for judge. Please consider my whole person when deciding whether to elect me as your judge.

 

Posted 10/7/2020

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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