By Dan Spalding
SYRACUSE – Members of the Syracuse-Wawasee Rotary Club got an up-close look at the two candidates running for Superior Court 3 judgeship in Kosciusko County.
Guests and club members at the Sleepy Owl restaurant in Syracuse on Wednesday heard short presentations from Republican Chad Miner and Democrat Antony Garza, who both then fielded a few questions.
Garza spoke first and made a few quips about his background as he told the audience about his legal career.
Garza is one of six children and was born in Warsaw. His mother and father, who both still live in Warsaw, worked as migrant workers decades ago.
Garza said he was always viewed as an outsider – literally not figuratively – because he was born in the parking lot of Murphy Medical Center in Warsaw.
Garza, 49, graduated from Warsaw High School and then Iowa State with a degree in architectural landscaping, but soon chose to study law and graduated from the Indiana University School of Law.
He’s been practicing law for 23 years. His experience includes working for a legal services office, the prosecutor’s office, and a Warsaw law firm before establishing his own law firm. He’s also worked as a mediator for the past six years.
Running for judge is a chance for a career change, he said, noting that he has also served on numerous community boards.
“As a child, I grew up in poverty. My parents … neither one was educated. Neither one graduated from high school. So they emphasized both education and community service,” Garza said. “This is another way to give back to the community.”
Miner, 42, graduated from Whitko High School and then got a bachelor’s degree from Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne in business and then earned a law degree from Indiana University, Indianapolis. He’s also earned a Master of Business Administration.
He said he’s worked in criminal and civil cases as well as estate planning and business planning during his nearly 14 years as a lawyer. He’s also served as a Judge Pro Tempore in Superior 3.
He’s been the attorney for Kosciusko County government since 2014, has served on the Silver Lake Town Council for nearly 10 years and also sits on numerous non-profit boards.
He’s a managing partner at Miner & Lemon, LLP, in Warsaw.
Superior 3 involves criminal matters and small claims matters.
Small claims cases, he said, are an important part of the court’s business.
“It’s critical that we provide folks with an opportunity where they have some kind of dispute … and don’t have to pay a bunch of money on an attorney and spend years and years working on it,” Miner said.
“Small claims court is a really great chance for people to come in and get some of these issues resolved in a way that’s affordable and timely,” he said.
Each candidate was asked if they recall a specific case that shaped their outlook.
Garza said he recalls an operating while intoxicated case involving marijuana in which another driver was killed and a youngster was seriously injured.
During the case, the state supreme court handed down a ruling that said probable cause was needed to seek a blood draw.
The conviction in his case was eventually overturned because there wasn’t enough probable cause to justify the blood draw, he said.
“That case left a big impact on me and really drove home the importance of the decision that came over the course of that case,” Garza said.
He noted that the same defendant was later accused of another crime with similar circumstances.
Miner pointed to small claims cases.
“It’s so important for people to come in … they need that chance to be heard,” Miner said.
“People really need to feel like they’ve got a full opportunity to develop their case and somebody listen to it and put some thought into it and give it a resolution that is fair and just,” he said.
“That’s an important part of what that court does and that’s why I’m so passionate about running for Superior 3,” he added.