By Ray Balogh
KOSCIUSKO COUNTY — Antony “Tony” Garza, Democrat, and Chad Miner, Republican, are vying for the judgeship of Kosciusko County Superior Court 3.
The Mail-Journal posed to questions to each candidate, whose answers appear in alphabetical order.
1. How do you plan to adjust the day-to-day operations of Superior Court 3 to deal with growing societal unrest and the challenges imposed by the current pandemic?
Garza: “In times of societal unrest, it is vital that the integrity of the courts be maintained. The best way to do that is to have a qualified, fair, and independent-minded person presiding over Superior Court 3, which handles a wide variety of cases from the very simple to the very complex.
“It is imperative that the judge of this court have practical courtroom experience in those areas. And, I have far more experience here than my opponent. The pandemic has required many courts to allow proceedings held online. This tool could also be used in Superior Court 3 to increase efficiency and access, especially for those with transportation issues and those who otherwise have difficulty being present in court in person.
“However, before making changes to the to day-to-day operations of Superior Court 3, I will meet with the stakeholders of Superior Court 3 to make wise choices.”
Miner: “In my role as county attorney, I have given advice and counsel to our local leaders with respect to the issues that have arisen as a result of the coronavirus and I have been involved in the county’s work to respond to those issues. As a result, I have valuable first-hand experience in this area.
“As far as adjustments to the day-to-day operations of Superior Court 3, fortunately technologies exist today (such as videoconferencing) that, if implemented, may increase the efficiency of court operations and may also minimize the amount of direct contact between individuals.
“Obviously the current situation is still rapidly evolving and I believe the most appropriate response at this point would be to maintain a watchful eye and be prepared to respond rapidly, if need be, while also balancing all of the various concerns that are in tension due to the present circumstances.”
2. What will be your approach to ensuring each person who comes before your court receives a fair and respectful opportunity to be heard and receive justice?
Garza: “I have practiced law for 23 years. As an attorney with Legal Services I provided civil legal aid to low-income families and individuals. My areas of practice included landlord/tenant law. Superior Court 3 handles most of the landlord/tenant disputes and small claims filings for Kosciusko County.
“Another area I have experience with comes from my work both as a deputy prosecuting attorney and as a defense attorney. In family law cases I have represented all parties and have been appointed to represent children as their guardian ad litem. I am a registered family law mediator and have conducted countless mediations.
“These experiences have given me the opportunity to analyze cases from all sides of a dispute, and this helps me to view cases from an unbiased perspective. Hearing a case from an unbiased perspective ensures the litigants are treated fairly and with respect while seeking justice.”
Miner: “One of the most important parts of a judge’s job is to ensure the folks who appear in the courtroom receive a fair opportunity to be heard and to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity.
“This is particularly important in Superior Court 3 because this court serves as the small claims court for the county, which means many of the litigants are unrepresented. I have served as judge pro tem in Superior Court 3 more than 50 times and have presided over numerous trials and hearings.
“There are several things I do to ensure parties are treated fairly. First, I review the docket and pleadings before entering the courtroom to make sure I am prepared. Second, I am patient and respectful toward the parties. And third, I insist the parties are respectful to each other and to the court.”