In the primary
election on Tuesday, June 2, Republicans Katrina Spence-Smock, Mike Fish,
and Frank A. Jury will seek their party’s nomination to the bench of Porter
Superior Court 1. The Chesterton Tribune invited all three to respond
to candidate questionnaires.
set word limits and reserved the right to edit for length.
(1) Age, place of
residence, place of practice, law school.
49; Valparaiso; Spence Law Office PC, concentrating in criminal and family
Law; DePaul University.
residence and practice in Valparaiso; Valparaiso University.
residence and practice in Valparaiso; Valparaiso University.
(2) Why are you
seeking election to the bench of Porter Superior Court 1? (75 words)
Superior Court 1 requires a Judicial Officer who has a wealth of experience.
I have that as a Deputy Sheriff, Deputy Prosecutor, sole practitioner,
volunteer work through the much heralded Veterans Treatment and Drug courts,
service as Judge Pro Tem, experience as both a Guardian Ad Litem and Public
Defender, and service to my community. I have always worked in the justice
system and feel becoming a Judge is my next logical step.
Fish: I am
called to serve and passionate about helping and protecting people. I strive
to follow Judge Roger Bradford’s 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 in order to
protect our community.
Jury: I’ve have
practiced law routinely in six local counties, including Porter County. I
believe I have practiced in front of and have observed the demeanor and
behavior of nearly every local sitting judge or magistrate for the past 22
years. I believe in fairness, justice, and the even-tempered practice of
law. Serving the public is a calling, and it would be an honor and privilege
to represent Porter County as your next Superior Court Judge.
(3) Describe your
qualifications for the bench (125 words).
I’ve practiced law for 22 years, for the last 10 in my own practice, prior
to which I worked as a Deputy Prosecutor and as Supervisor of Domestic
Violence cases. I have sat as Judge Pro Tem for Michael Drenth, Julia Jent,
Jeff Thode, and Dave Chidester. While attending law school, I was a Deputy
Sheriff in Cook County. After graduating I assisted the Sheriff in
implementing such innovative programs as the Boot Camp and the Women’s
Justice Division at the Cook County Jail. I work tirelessly as a volunteer
for the acclaimed Veterans Treatment Court and was one of two attorneys
assigned to a pilot program addressing the pretrial release of defendants. I
volunteer with Portage YMCA, Portage Parks Foundation, and Alice’s House.
Fish: I bring a
significantly broad legal experience to this race along with a rich life’s
journey. In 21 years of practice based in Porter County, I focused upon
family matters, bankruptcy, and general litigation. I served as Army
prosecutor with JAG. In 19 years in Army JAG Corps and 31 years total
service in the Indiana Army National Guard, I faced one combat tour to
Afghanistan and recently deployed to the Middle East and Indo-Pacific.
Significant participation as Temporary Judge in Porter County Courts with 65
appointments in Juvenile Court between Jan 2015-April 2019 (along with
appointments in other courts).
Jury: At 23, I
was the youngest graduate in my law school class at Valparaiso University.
I’ve clerked for both the Porter County Prosecutor’s Office and Attorney’s
Office. I’m a former Police Officer and Deputy Prosecutor and have
successfully helped thousands of clients in my 22 years of private practice.
I’ve maintained and managed my office in Valparaiso for over two decades. I
have many years of experience as a trial attorney, have tried a number of
cases in various courts, including some in front of Judge Bradford, and have
handled a variety of cases including criminal defense, personal injury,
divorce, landlord/tenant, and small claims. I’ve practiced law in every
Porter County Court, including all the Superior Courts, Circuit Court, and
(4) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
There are several. One is transparency. I would publish the Court's docket
in advance so citizens could see what’s pending and attend sessions if
needed. I’m also interested in broadcasting Court proceedings like our
neighbors to the west. Another issue concerns access to Courts due to
COVID-19. The Court should be able to hold hearings telephonically or online
through such platforms as Zoom and GoToMeetings. We need a Judge who is
knowledgeable in Alternative Treatment Courts, as I am, to address the
opioid crisis, other addictions, and mental health issues while working to
keep our communities safe. We need a Judge who is familiar with the Supreme
Court's edict concerning pretrial release. I would be that Judge. Finally,
we need a Judge who would keep civil cases moving by instituting status
dates. I believe having attorneys appear in court will help get civil cases
resolved short of trial.
administering justice is the most significant concern right now. Continuing
to reopen government services while protecting high risk people and
respecting risk averse people is challenging. We will manage it through
cooperation with county government, the bench, and bar. I expect to continue
appropriate resolution of this dynamic problem.
services to the court’s customers is the future. Offering online dispute
resolution as an alternative to face-to-face mediation creates another way
for people to resolve litigation. This saves judicial time and encourages
people to settle their matters. Litigants reach better solutions on their
own terms and are happier with results they personally control.
people create a significant need within our system. Judges must encourage
increased attorney volunteerism. Additional funding is required for agencies
that offer pro bono services and other resources including online legal
information/assistance portals. Increasing public awareness regarding this
need suits the judiciary.
candidates are prohibited from taking sides on issues that may come before
(5) What role does
the judiciary play in addressing the opioid crisis in Porter County? (75
The Judiciary is limited in its role to either accepting or rejecting plea
agreements, or setting matters for trial. I believe the Judiciary needs to
be educated in opioid addiction and make use of Alternative Treatment Courts
like Veterans Court, Drug Court, and Restoration CourtÑall of which I am
intimately aware of their functions and am a member of the National
Association of Drug Court Professionals.
Fish: I respect
those wishing to gain strength and understanding by overcoming adversity.
Some addicts’ recovery paths go through court. Courts can often offer
suitable folks some professional services. People can seek sobriety and
learn the tools to continue working to stay clean.
public from violent criminals, including gangs and major drug dealers, is
critical. If convicted, violent drug offenders must receive impactful
sentences that disrupt drug markets and keep criminals locked up.
opioid/drug problem is an ongoing national issue. Porter County has a Drug
Court, and there are drug classes offered in Porter County in an attempt to
help alleviate the problem. There are inpatient and outpatient facilities
located in Northwest Indiana. A large number of criminal cases that come
before the court are a result of drug and/or alcohol abuse.
(6) How, in your
view, does plea bargaining promote justice? To what degree does it confound
justice? (100 words)
Plea agreements are a way to make the victim whole, by requiring defendants
to pay restitution, seek counseling, complete an alternative treatment
court, perform community service, or serve jail time. In this sense, plea
agreements promote justice. Some, however, argue that plea agreements fail
to make victims whole. In any case, the Judge must accept or reject a plea
agreement, in its entirety. The Judge cannot amend an agreement. After
establishing a factual basis for a plea agreement, she may only accept or
reject it. If elected, I would approach each plea agreement on a
accused person willing to stand, admit their wrongdoing, and accept
appropriate consequences, promotes justice by streamlining the court's
docket. Everyone benefits. Accused people better control their destiny; the
State then focuses upon other crimes; defense counsel is freed up to handle
tougher cases. Thus, more processing of justice occurs resulting in a safer
community. However, the public often perceives plea bargained sentences as
slaps on the wrist. Victims feel cheated of real justice. “Power players”
like influential and wealthy people swing seemingly unfair deals. Although
Justice is our most important social institution, people who cheat at
justice confound it.
Jury: The vast
majority of criminal cases end with a plea bargain. The court system would
be utterly overwhelmed if most criminal cases went to trial. If the parties
can successfully reach a fair and equitable agreement, there is no reason to
further burden the court system with an unnecessary trial.