October 17, 2012

Circuit Court candidates respond to questions

— Incumbent Democrat Leo Burns faces a challenge from Republican Douglas Cox in the race for Cass Circuit Court judge.

The Pharos-Tribune posed two questions to the candidates. Those questions and the candidates’ responses follow:

What do you see as the issues in this campaign?

Burns: The most important issue in this campaign is ensuring that the court always serves in the best interest of the community in each ruling. Whether sentencing a criminal or deciding a juvenile matter the court must wisely use its power to shape lives in the best interest of Cass County.

Circuit Court handles more than just criminal cases. It is the court in which all issues affecting Cass County’s minor are heard. How that court handles issues affecting children has a long term impact on their lives and ours within the community. This includes activities both inside and outside the courtroom.

Cox: As I traveled the county, sharing meals with the citizens of Cass County, the need for timely service was made quite apparent. Litigants and family members are tired of waiting on decisions; they feel that their lives are placed on hold. I hope to rectify this situation.

Circuit Court is the sole court with juvenile jurisdiction. A family court needs a person with juvenile experience. I raised two lively teenage girls who introduced me to the challenges teenagers face today. Over the years, I worked with youth in many capacities; I have experienced the issues that families confront. I believe that this knowledge and experience will assist in crafting effective, respectful and amenable solutions for today’s adjudications.

Why should voters choose you?

Burns: I have committed myself to the betterment of our community and those who live here in actions, as well as words, for many years. The record will show my involvement with education, youth and community service, experience that serves me well as judge. I have served as legal counsel for both Pioneer and Southeastern school corporations as well as the Department of Child Services. I have served on the board of directors of the Cass County Youth Services Bureau, the Cass County Family YMCA and the Logansport Public Library. I have also served as a teacher at Ivy Tech and IU-Kokomo while finding time to work with the students of the Pioneer mock trial teams as well.

I don’t just judge Cass County’s youth, I am involved with them every day, and it is my mission to make them better citizens and individuals. My goal is to see that every child gets a chance to grow up to be a dependable, valued asset to their community and family.

Cox: Voters of Cass County should choose for their judge a person who is fair, impartial, willing to listen and timely rule on the individual particulars of each case in accordance to the law. They should choose a person who is progressive, able to meet the challenges of today’s families and issues. The judge must also prove to be an efficient office manager, able to keep within a budget and spend taxpayers’ dollars wisely.  

I believe that I am that person. My 12 years of experience as judge of the Cass Superior Court and training through the Indiana and National Judicial Colleges give rise to unique qualifications. As judge, I worked tirelessly to render timely, fair and impartial decisions. I worked alongside the Cass County Council and commissioners in seeking innovative and effective ways of providing court services. In addressing the high caseload, I worked with Sen. Weatherwax and Rep. McClain to create Cass Superior Court 2, founded the Cass/Pulaski Community Corrections program establishing viable alternatives to incarceration, and created a unified probation department to save taxpayer dollars. My substance abuse program had a 74 percent success rate, then the highest in Indiana.  

Finally, I believe that voters want a person invested in the community. I came to Cass County as a young attorney, married Deborah, my wife of 29 years, and raised daughters Katie (Dahman) and Susie. Through the years, I met many wonderful people. I worked as staff counsel at First National Bank, was among the youngest judges in Indiana at age 32, represented juveniles as public defender, and worked many years in private practice. Voters should choose me because they can trust that I have their best interests at heart.