Chesterton Tribune

 

 

Superior Court 4 Judge David Chidester faces challenge from Christopher Buckley

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By KEVIN NEVERS

In the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Democrat David L. Chidester will face a challenge from Republican Christopher A. Buckley for the bench of Porter Superior Court 4.

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

(1) For Chidester: Age, place of residence, law school, terms on the bench: 65; Center Township; Valparaiso University School of Law, 1981; 18 years on the bench.

For Buckley: Age, place of residence, place of practice, law school. 40; Valparaiso University School of Law; full-time general law practice in Portage.

(2) For Chidester: Why are you seeking re-election to the bench of Porter Superior Court 4? (75 words) Continuing the work of our Mental Illness Problem Solving Court, over which I preside, is extremely important to me. Continuity and predictability from the same judge are important to achieving success in mental illness and addiction cases, which involve much of our caseload. With the recent retirements of four judges and two magistrates, I will be the only judge in the Valparaiso Courthouse having long-term experience in the complicated business of running a court.

For Buckley: Why are you seeking election to the bench of Porter Superior Court 4? (75 words) I am running for Porter Superior Court 4 because I will bring humility, respect, understanding, dignity, and most importantly--the ability to listen--back to Court 4. Emotional outbursts, disrespecting litigants and attorneys, and interrupting have no place whatsoever in any court of law. I have a seasoned track record of stepping up to lead and defuse very hostile and difficult situations. This January I hope to bring this much needed calm to Court 4.

(3) For Chidester: Describe your achievements on the bench (125 words). Since 2003, 162,000 new cases have been filed before me, yet our official statistics show that Porter Superior Court 4 has the lowest number of undecided cases, by far, in the county. I operate professionally, and give each person a fair opportunity to be heard. The Mental Illness Court is my proudest achievement. I have worked extensively on state judicial committees to improve the way our judicial system assists those who come to the courts for help. I like to help people and have made myself available as the only judge in the Courthouse who performs wedding ceremonies. Also, during the COVID-19 courthouse quarantine, I worked every day in the courtroom conducting video hearings or painting the offices of Division 4.

For Buckley: Describe your qualifications for the bench (125 words) In 2015, I was elected by caucus to serve as the Lowell Town Judge. I served in that capacity for just over four years, and did an exceptional job. Some of the cases I commonly heard included operating while intoxicated, domestic battery, and drug possession--many of the same cases I will hear as judge in Court 4 if elected. Many of these cases went to bench trial, where I heard countless hours of witness testimony and issued written opinions. For the past six years, I also volunteered in Court 4 for similar cases, including numerous bench trials. I have practiced for more than a decade in nearly every area of the law, and taught as an adjunct professor at Valparaiso University School of Law.

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

Chidester: Experience. Residency. Commitment to Community.

Judges perform diverse duties. I have written the Porter County Local Rules of Court, drafted caseload plans directing where cases are filed, written employee policy manuals, and partnered with the community and justice system stakeholders such as the Community Corrections Advisory Board, which I now chair.

I have lived in Porter County since 1977 with a 40+ year commitment to our community. I have been your judge since 2003.

My opponent was registered to vote in Lake County from Jan. 7, 2016, to Feb. 12, 2020, which was the filing deadline for this election. During the time he claimed Lake County residency, he sought appointment as a judge or magistrate in Porter County five times. Gov. Hocomb rejected his judicial applications every time and the local board of judges also determined he would not be the best selection for any of the open magistrate positions.

Buckley: As stated, judicial candidates are prohibited from compromising impartiality or independence. Therefore, judicial elections are primarily based upon the character of each candidate. As stated, the issues I feel are most important in this race are humility, respect, understanding, dignity, and most importantly the ability to listen to prosecutors, litigants, attorneys, and experts. A judge’s first job is to listen; to be thoughtful, careful, respectful, and considerate. I learned this skill early on in my adult life growing up in my hometown of Chesterton, and expanded upon it as a corporal leading a squad of Marines in an infantry battalion. That is exactly who I was as a judicial officer, both on and off the bench. I enjoyed my four years as judge very much, and this was reflected in the great people I was surrounded by. I hope to bring just this leadership and passion to Court 4.

(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)

Chidester: Data and studies show the greatest potential for success in dealing with the opioid crisis is the use of problem-solving courts, for example, my Mental Health Court. It requires defendants to attend court weekly, participate in intensive case management and therapy, and undergo frequent drug testing. We use appropriate sanctions, incentives, and encouragement. It has worked. The Chief Justice of Indiana said problem solving courts work and are our best defense in this crisis.

Buckley: All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. For this reason, a court’s role in the opioid crisis is limited to individuals who have admitted guilt or been found guilty of an opioid related offense. Sentencing should accomplish both the punitive and rehabilitative goals of our system. In other words, balancing these offenses as both crimes and addictions best serves the offenders as well as the general public.

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

Chidester: Agreements between the prosecution and defense that involve those who are guilty admitting their guilt and receiving a sentence that meets society’s demands for deterrence, rehabilitation, and accountability allow the courts to process the tremendous volume of cases we face. The judge always has the right to reject a plea agreement. The system works when the defense is strong and the prosecutor is prepared, strong ,and confident. Although I very much enjoy conducting jury trials.

Buckley: Fortunately or unfortunately, plea bargaining is a given in our criminal system. Our system could not operate without the efficiency of agreements between prosecutors and defendants on the resolution of cases, due to the limited time and resources to hold trials. A judge’s limited role is to trust the judgment of the professionals in his or her courtroom, and scrutinize these agreements for overall fairness to the general public as well as to the defendant.

(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)

Chidester: Division 4 would never see a death penalty case. It hears small claims, traffic tickets, misdemeanors, and minor felony cases. I believe a judge has the responsibility to help protect the lives of Porter County’s citizens from impaired and intoxicated drivers, assist battered spouses, combat animal abuse, follow the law, and help our community whenever possible. I have done so for 18 years and consider it to be my life’s work.

Buckley: As a judicial candidate, I am prohibited by the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct from making any statement that could be perceived as affecting my impartiality or independence as a future judicial officer. For this reason, I cannot take any position on an issue that could come before me such as capital punishment, even though it is unlikely to come before this Court of primarily misdemeanors and small claims.

(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)

Chidester: Politics has no place in the courtroom. Judges must constantly prioritize the need for fairness, equity, and adherence to the law. I run as a Democrat; however, throughout my tenure on the bench, I have been blessed to have as my wife Mary Harper, a Republican Porter County judge for the last 35 years. We often talk about the need for balance in performing our work both in and outside of the courtroom.

Buckley: A judge’s political affiliation should never have any influence whatsoever on the outcome of any case. In general, however, I have always had the deepest admiration for the jurists with the strictest view of judicial restraint. It will never be my job to make law from the bench--only to apply the black letter of the law to each case. I will not read into any statute or ordinance words that are simply not there.

 

 

Posted 9/23/2020

 
 
 
 

 

 

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