Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

October 23, 2012

Candidates discuss judge's duties

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

-- — In the Nov. 6 election, Steven Cox, Brookville, the Franklin County Circuit Court Division 1 judge, is being challenged by Tammy Davis, Brookville.

Why do they want this position? Davis, a Democrat, notes, “After representing clients for several years, I have had an opportunity to see aspects of the court system that many people never get to see. More than anything, it has put me close to the process and made me really question what decisions are being made and why. Sometimes I agree with those decisions and other times I wholeheartedly disagree. Either way, it has made me want to get involved .... I feel like any other professional interviewing for a job. It just so happens that the job where I feel I can do the most good is a public office.”

The incumbent, a Republican, points out that beyond the compensation and health benefits, serving as judge "has become the vocation to which I have dedicated my professional career. I am good at what I do on your behalf and while I understand that there are those among us who did not get the result that they felt entitled to as litigants, the results, nonetheless, were based upon my understanding of the facts before me and the law and not who the litigants were or their net worths.”   

When asked what strengths he will bring to the role of judge if re-elected, Cox notes he is “the only candidate in this race, or in this county for that matter, to have graduated from the Indiana Judicial College. I have presided over hundreds of jury trials during my tenure as well as thousands of hearings from the bench. I have had exclusive jurisdiction over juvenile matters in this county for nearly 20 years and I understand how courts work .... I have guided the court through 18 budget cycles. I have moved the court forward in every area of court administration, including probation services, caseload management and technology.” Recently, Cox was appointed "by unanimous consent of every judge in Wayne, Union, Fayette, Franklin and Rush counties to be the presiding judge" of the new Indiana Supreme Court" District 18 governance plan.

If elected, Davis, a lifelong county resident, would "bring with me a strong sense of pride and a fierce protectiveness of our community. I believe in the value of our land, our people, our jobs, our homes and, most of all, our families. I believe in truth, justice and the public trust at the expense of politics and personal interests. Most importantly, I believe in the value of hard work. I am the type of person who will not rest until a job is done completely and done well.”

"Hard work and balanced verdicts" are the two issues on which Davis will focus if her campaign is successful.

Cox has more specific ideas. "The court is ever evolving depending on the issues before it and resources available to it in any given budget cycle.” He predicts, "The court will need to restructure the way in which it provides Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteers to the many juvenile cases before it annually.” Cox has been working on increasing the education requirements for attorneys serving as guardian ad litems (representing the interests of children or incompetent persons) and is continuing to explore the court's partnerships with addiction recovery services. "I am moving the court toward implementation of the Odyssey caseload management system through the Indiana Judicial Technology and Automation Commis-sion, which should save thousands of taxpayer dollars over time by eliminating service contracts associated with the current system.”

Both candidates see the same trend. Many of the crimes processed by the court were methamphetamine-based  five or 10 years ago. That has evolved to heroin today. In past cases, Cox reports, "I handed down some of the toughest sentences in our part of the state" and he vows that stance would continue if he gets elected to another term. According to Davis, "It is obvious from the speed with which these verdicts are returned that residents of this county agree with my take on the importance of taking action to reduce the drug problem. The mounting drug problem – and violent crimes ensuing from said drug-related activities – is of great concern to individuals and families in the community.”

The Republican explains, "If the deterrence theory is correct, then courts can indirectly lessen a county's problem with drug dealers and users by handing down sentences upon conviction which cause others to refrain from engaging in the same or similar activity. But as judges and members of the same community, we know that sometimes the cycles of addictions are so pronounced that some are not deterred regardless of the sanctions handed to others. I think, as is the case with many of society's pressing questions, that education and opportunity can do much to lessen the ills that plague our community.”

The Democrat adds, "As a lifelong resident and mother, I am willing to consider any number of possible solutions in order to find a truly viable one. While violent repeat offenders do not belong on the streets, those convicted of nonviolent drug offenses might be better served in rehab.”

When asked what voters need to realize about judges and their responsibilities, she responded, “There is no greater honor (than to be elected) and that honor should not be taken lightly ...”