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Monday, January 09, 2017

Ind. Courts - "Mary Harper now longest-serving female state court judge"

Bob Kasarda reported this weekend in the NWI Times. The long story begins:

Porter Circuit Court Judge Mary Harper was in her final semester of law school when her grandfather was murdered while walking to church in South Bend.

Those believed responsible for the killing were released when witnesses refused to testify, she said.

"I thought that was so wrong," Harper said. "I decided to work in social justice."

She went on to become the county's first female deputy prosecutor, first female chief deputy prosecutor, first female county judge, first female superior court judge and first female circuit court judge. Now 32 years later, she has become the longest-serving female state court judge in Indiana's history.

"I've got a little grandfather on my shoulder," she said, who reminds her to "be fair, be just."

"I felt guided through my whole career," Harper said.

Harper, who believes women have it much easier these days in the area of law, is a graduate of the Valparaiso University School of Law, which she completed in an accelerated two and a half years.

The South Bend native decided to remain in Porter County and said she went to work in 1975 at the local prosecutor's office.

"It was the prosecutor's office or go work for a bank in South Bend," she said.

She worked her way up to the chief deputy post before leaving in 1981 to pursue a private legal practice where she found herself on the opposite side of the courtroom, defending those she had been seeking to lock up.

"It's a big switch," Harper said.

She took another big leap in 1984 by running against and defeating incumbent judge and fellow Republican Terry Johnston.

After winning a general election challenge against Democrat Thomas Webber, who later made it to the bench himself, Harper spent the next 12 years handling small claims and misdemeanor cases before running for her current circuit court seat that was left open by the retirement of Raymond Kickbush.

"When he was announcing, I was down filing (as a candidate) in Indianapolis," she said.

The leap to circuit court, which she has held on to through three additional elections, put more serious, felony-level cases before her. But what drew her to seek out the post was its role in running the county's juvenile system.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 9, 2017 09:17 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts