By Ray Balogh
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Four candidates are vying for the position of judge of Kosciusko County Superior Court 3 in Warsaw. Each candidate was requested to submit a short bio and answer the same two questions.
Their responses, listed alphabetically by their surnames, appear below.
Robert Bishop was raised in Fort Wayne and is a current resident of Kosciusko County.
He was admitted to practice law in Indiana in 1991; engaged in private practice in Fort Wayne, handling all types of law, including family law; and served as a public defender. He has worked as a deputy prosecutor for Kosciusko County since 2006.
A community leader, he has served as chair of the Wayne Township Advisory Board and is past president of the Warsaw Breakfast Optimists.
He and his wife, Lois, have been married for 20 years, and have two teenage daughters, two dogs and two cats.
Lindsey Grossnickle was born in Lansing, Mich., in 1975. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree from Alma College in 1997 and attained her J.D. from Valparaiso University in 2000.
She was admitted to the Indiana bar in 2000 and is admitted to practice before the U.S. District Court in Indiana.
She served as law clerk in the Indiana Court of Appeals in Indianapolis 2000-2002 and was an associate/partner at Bloom, Gates & Whiteleather LLP in Columbia City 2002-2016, serving as deputy city attorney for Columbia City 2004-2012.
She has served as a veteran’s treatment court team member and juvenile detention alternatives initiative co-coordinator since 2016.
She has been a Whitley County deputy prosecutor since 2004 and a Kosciusko County resident since 2006.
Karin McGrath is a Christian, lifelong Republican, wife of 33 years, mother of two and grandmother of two. Her interest in the law grew in the 1980s and she returned to law school when her children reached their teen years.
McGrath served as Kosciusko County deputy prosecutor for more than seven years and is a practicing attorney at the Rockhill Pinnick law firm.
She has extensive experience in many areas, including criminal, civil, family, estate, juvenile and municipal law.
She has conducted countless trials and several felony criminal jury trials and has served as judge pro tem in all four of the county’s superior courts.
Chad Miner is a lifelong resident of Kosciusko County and a managing partner at the law firm of Miner & Lemon, practicing in a number of areas of the law, including civil and criminal matters.
He has served as the county’s attorney since 2014 and has served as judge pro tem in Superior Court 3 on numerous occasions, presiding over many trials in that court.
In addition to his legal practice, he is president of his town council and serves on several nonprofit boards, including the Kosciusko Community YMCA and Kosciusko Community Senior Services.
What are the most pressing issues involving the Kosciusko County Superior Court 3?
Bishop: Superior Court 3 has the opportunity to reduce the rate at which people reoffend in drinking and driving cases. A study found that in Indiana 43% of the people convicted of DUI are subsequently convicted again.
We need a DUI problem-solving court. Most of the 43% have been to jail or have already been sent to alcohol classes, yet they end up back in court.
A problem-solving court benefits those on the streets by reducing drunk drivers; benefits our wallets by reducing criminal cases; and benefits the offenders, who do not offend again.
Grossnickle: Superior Court 3 is a court of general jurisdiction and may hear any criminal or civil matter. There are certain cases allocated to Superior Court 3, which include small claims, landlord-tenant, collections, protective orders, felony non-support, felony traffic offenses and other criminal felonies such as theft, battery, burglary, intimidation and fraud.
This court has a high volume of cases and it is key to be an efficient time manager.
Resolution is important to parties and victims of criminal cases. As judge, I would make it a priority to be well organized so parties have the opportunity to be heard in a timely fashion.
McGrath: The most pressing issue facing Kosciusko Superior Court 3 is the need for an elected judge with experience to effectively handle the court’s docket from day one, including criminal trial experience beyond that of judge pro tem, which is much like a substitute teacher.
A judge must have first-hand experience with matters such as discovery disputes, evidence suppression, trial procedure, the rules of criminal procedure, and the rules of evidence.
Another issue is the lack of substance abuse and mental health treatment services for offenders, leading to recidivism. Problem-solving approaches have proven effective in other courts.
Miner: Superior Court 3 acts as the small claims court for the county and also hears cases involving traffic-related felonies, along with various other civil matters and criminal offenses. In its role as the small claims court, Superior Court 3 is able to give unrepresented parties an opportunity to resolve low-dollar controversies.
Given the nature of the cases that are dealt with through Superior Court 3, it is imperative that the judge of that court have the ability to work with both represented and unrepresented parties and also have the ability to administer cases efficiently while treating all parties with respect and dignity.
What are your plans to make the court more efficient and/or responsive to the public?
Bishop: Superior Court 3 is home to Kosciusko County’s small claims court. On some days there may be 100 people ordered to court to address payment on judgments, and many of these hearings can last less than five minutes.
This process needs solutions that allow people to respond without coming to court. Just as I have pioneered the use of electronic tools to allow the conduct of child support enforcement hearings without requiring a visit to the Justice Building, we can do the same in small claims court, benefiting both parties.
Grossnickle: A pending court case, whether civil or criminal, causes stress and anxiety for all involved. I want the public to know if they have a case in my court, I will do my part to bring the case to a timely resolution. I will seek out programming to enhance chances of success.
I have significant experience with treatment courts, jobs programs and establishment of alternatives. The right kind of programming has positive effects for participants and the community. There is value in seeking these out.
McGrath: Utilizing enhanced technology will improve efficiency. For example, videoconferencing would eliminate the need to transport inmates to court for certain hearings, saving time for both court and jail staff.
Having worked in all five Kosciusko County courts, I will incorporate various elements from each court and work with attorneys, court staff and the prosecutor to maximize efficiency.
Accessibility for litigants could be increased by an enhanced informational website, along with common forms and procedural assistance for those without attorneys.
Finally, if the docket required, considering night court hours could be an option to further meet the public’s needs.
Miner: Given that Superior Court 3 hears the small claims cases brought in this county, efficiency and responsiveness are particularly important. I firmly believe the court is currently very well run and my goal would be to continue that tradition.
My objectives would be to get matters set quickly and get verdicts out promptly. Additionally, because many unrepresented parties go through Superior Court 3, I would endeavor to keep the process as user friendly as possible so parties would be able to represent themselves effectively without hiring an attorney.