Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Jim Holden Candidate for Boone County Superior Court: In His Own Words

Update 29 April 2014 - County Prosecutor Disciplined by the Indiana Supreme Court for Drunk Driving is a Candidate for Judge of an Indiana Superior Court

25 March 2014

Jim Holden is a Boone County attorney who, as he says, like most attorneys has always been interested in being a judge. When he heard that the Boone County Superior Court II was going to be vacated by Judge Rebecca McClure he thought it would be a good opportunity to pursue that interest. As that court handles many criminal and small claims cases he says it would be “a good fit for me.” That is because Jim had nearly 10 years of experience as a Judge Advocate, the same position now Indiana Supreme Court Justice and former Boone Circuit Court Judge Steve David held, while serving in the Army Reserve and the National Guard. Additionally he provided legal assistance to military families with administrative matters, domestic relations, and drafting documents.

Mr Holden says that as a judge he will draw on his years of experience in the Army and also working in the consumer protection division of the Office of the Attorney General under Steve Carter. As we talked for about an hour I kept feeling this sense from Jim that our elected officials, particularly at the federal level, do not embrace and revere the US Constitution and the Indiana Constitution as he does. Most notable is his discontent with a judiciary that “tries to write the law rather than interpret it” which is known as judicial activism.

His objective as a superior court judge would be to provide a service to the people. In following with his service under the state attorney general combined with his legal assistance to military families he aspires to provide the patience and understanding to help self-represented litigants feel comfortable make their way through the court room processes. While acknowledging that he will not be able to sit on the bench and advocate for any party before him he will follow the procedural process and the law the best he can while “respecting the rights of litigants.”

Jim is an adjunct professor at the McKinney Law School [IUPUI] and would like to continue to perform that service while serving as a judge. I detected a sense of pride and enthusiasm in Jim's voice as he talked about his students that have become attorneys and the successes that they have had in the legal field. He speaks of wanting to mentor to young attorneys.

When it comes to the arena of family law Mr Holden has not been in private practice in that area but as I mentioned earlier he did assist military families through divorce, child custody and other domestic relations matters. He acknowledges that “emotions run high” in child custody cases but that while those parents with acrimony are the hardest to manage their attorneys may mitigate that while he, as a judge, can ensure that self-represented litigants can be heard by facilitating the due process to which they are entitled. His overarching goal is to “help make that smoother.”

People come to the Boone Superior Court II for a variety of reasons which include those family law matters as well as the entire range of criminal offense and even traffic cases. When I asked Jim about societal ills and if he feels that America is in as much distress as some social activists would have you believe he felt problems are more localized rather than a general societal decline. Particularly he noted that the Indiana General Assembly has allowed county courts to implement veteran's treatment court program within their existing courts. This would be a specialized court for military veterans charged with low level criminal offenses such as substance abuse and other non violent offenses that would offer much more intensive probation monitoring and a veteran mentor. Jim explained that experiences of combat veterans can lead to self-medicating through substance abuse and that “recently returning veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan experienced traumatic brain injuries which are affecting them in different ways.” As someone who experience a TBI when I was struck on my bicycle by a high speed vehicle I am intimately aware of the impact it can have. For me there was a loss of patience, loss of impulse control, and within a year I was serving time in federal prison although I had no prior criminal experience. The veterans courts are successfully existing in several other Indiana counties.

Jim also noted that in general “too much government” causes problems for people. He finds that the welfare state which has “replaced family with money and programs” is to blame for some of the cases. I have observed and the research continues to substantiate that the breakdown of family is distressful for youth and the parents who may be embroiled in the legal system. I have talked to numerous federal legislators who all tell me that it is important for parents to consistently follow parenting time orders. Yet the federal government is willing to spend over seven billion dollars annually to assist states in criminally prosecuting parents, mostly unemployed fathers, who are behind on child support payments. However, the federal government allocates exactly zero dollars to assist in the enforcement of parenting time orders although parenting time compliance has consistently been shown to provide better outcomes for children and increase child support payment compliance. It's as though government is manufacturing adversities to bring people into the court system.

Not all is dreary and as downtrodden as I may see in my practice. Mr Holden feels that the judiciary can have a positive impact upon the people who come before it as well as the community. Consistency he says can instill trust in the process so that people will know they are going to be treated fairly. I asked about the connectedness between judges, attorneys and certain citizens in small towns. Jim noted that he is “not entrenched in Boone County politics” and that he can bring the best of his experience in other counties and the Army to Boone County residents.

Jim wants to “apply law to people equally, be a positive role model, and get out in the community” to interact with people first hand so they can experience a judge as a neighbor and learn about his role. That role for him will be one of judicial restraint where he hopes to fairly apply the law while demonstrating patience for the parties, especially the pro se [those without an attorney], and building trust in the court.

Jim is a member of the Federalist Society - an organization for lawyers which proclaims “We are committed to the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be. You may read more about his background and campaign by visiting his campaign website HoldenforJudge.com

Finally, I leave you with the closing thoughts of Jim Holden in his own words:
“My entire career in the law has been one of public service, including as Deputy Attorney General, U.S. Army Judge Advocate, and university professor.  I hope to bring the unique experience I have gained as both a civilian and military lawyer to work for the citizens of Boone County as Superior Court Judge.  I will strive to preside over a court that is efficiently managed and in which litigants can be confident they will be treated fairly and according to the law.”

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