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Friday, October 24, 2014

Ind. Courts - "Incumbent, 2 challengers in contention for judgeship"

The ILB does not blog about every local judicial election, but this story from Rebecca Green of the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette is particularly comprehensive and could serve as a model. The long story begins:

Allen Superior Court Judge Stanley Levine has held onto his seat on the Allen County bench for 16 years, but this year there are two challengers trying to unseat him.

Daniel Borgmann, husband of Allen County Clerk Lisbeth Borgmann, is running, as is James Posey. All three candidates have decades of legal experience. The candidates cannot make promises or pledges as to what they would do in office, and Allen County Superior Court candidates are nonpartisan.

Judge Stanley Levine

The 76-year-old Levine quickly talked about how he ended up on the bench in the first place – with an appointment to replace Judge Vern Sheldon when he retired at the end of 1998. He has since been elected and re-elected to his seat.

Through the appointment process, Levine was vetted by local lawyers, local leaders and an Indiana Supreme Court justice.

“A group of people passed on my qualifications,” he said.

Before he took the bench, Levine practiced law in Allen County for 35 years. In those years, he represented Fort Wayne City Council and served as the president of the Allen County Bar Association.

He identifies no court issues as relevant to the office and said state codes of ethics prohibit candidates from making any promises about what they would do if elected.

In August, Levine drew fire for a series of public statements made at a retirement party for a female court employee. He apologized publicly and said she accepted it.

“I stand on my record in dealing with women as employees, co-workers and litigants,” he said. “It’s been exemplary.”

A lifelong Fort Wayne resident, South Side High School graduate and Air National Guard captain, Levine said he should be allowed to continue in his job.

“Being a good judge is all about what you do and not what you promise,” Levine said. “I bring to the bench sound legal reasoning, wisdom, common sense and a proven history of fairness, honesty and integrity. I think that’s what people want in a judge.”

James Posey

A senior partner and litigator at the local firm Beers, Mallers, Backs & Salin LLP, Posey, 60, said he wants to take his years of experienced gathered in civil law practice and apply it in a way that allows him to serve.

He thinks serving as a judge would be one of the best ways he could contribute to the community.

“It’s time for people to try to think outside the box as to how the judiciary can be used to help communities,” he said.

Posey would like to see the Allen Superior Court establish a “business court,” which would involve only disputes between businesses. Similar courts operate in states surrounding Indiana, he said.

“Businesses can plan better,” he said.

By allowing judges to handle business disputes, such courts help with economic development, he said.

Posey believes his diverse experience as a litigator would benefit him on the bench, having handled all types of cases.

“You are not losing experience, but what you are gaining is someone who has a great deal of energy and passion to want to work at the job,” Posey said.

Prohibited by local rules from spending more than $10,000 to campaign for judge, Posey has been knocking on doors in Allen County. He estimated that by mid-October, he’d visited nearly 3,000 houses.

If he’s elected, he plans to put his worn-out shoes in his chambers to remind him of what it took to get there.

“You’re accountable to the voters,” he said.

Daniel Borgmann

Known locally as a mediator, Borgmann, 63, is a managing partner at the local law firm of Helmke Beams LLP.

He has identified three areas he’d like to tackle if he is elected to the bench: an evening court; helping other judges who have heavier case loads by handling preliminary hearings and other procedural matters; and starting a domestic violence problem-solving court.

“I think it’s time to start a conversation here,” Borgmann said about a domestic violence court. “I know I have to go to eight other judges and convince them, and I’d probably have to go to the Indiana Supreme Court too.”

Along with the Superior Court’s criminal division, which handles domestic violence cases now, Borgmann would probably also need to consult with the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office as well.

Borgmann said he wants to see continuity in how the cases are dealt with. The criminal side of the cases are handled in the criminal division, while family matters are handled in the family relations division.

Borgmann believes perhaps the cases can be streamlined.

“It may not take the criminal division out but could end up in the civil division,” he said.

He acknowledges getting any of those three goals through would be tough and knows he’d have to politic a bit to accomplish them.

Much of his legal work the past few years has been spent mediating – about 1,700 mediations over the past 14 years.

“I think that speaks well about what my peers think of me and my ability, that I think really distinguishes me,” he said.

Borgmann hasn’t campaigned much, he said. He said he has not collected any campaign donations or endorsements.

“Mailings and emails, that’s the vast majority of what I’ve done,” he said.

His wife, a Republican, is running for the county clerk of the courts. While she has no opponent, she has taken out large black billboards with the family name in dark orange letters. The word “clerk” is written underneath the Borgmann name in small letters.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on October 24, 2014 10:19 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts