Chesterton Tribune



Deppe challenges Jent in Democrat judge race

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On Tuesday, May 3, incumbent Porter Superior Court Judge Julia Jent will face a challenge from fellow Democrat Michael Deppe for their party’s nomination to the bench.

The Chesterton Tribune invited Jent and Deppe to respond to a questionnaire.

The Tribune reserved the right to edit the responses for length.

(1) Age, place of residence, and education.

Jent: 69; Portage; Bachelor of Science in criminal justice, Indiana University Northwest; J.D., Valparaiso University School of Law; graduate program for judges, Indiana Judicial College.

Deppe: 60; Union Township; Associate’s degree, Murray State University; Bachelor’s in criminal justice, Indiana University Northwest; J.D., Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

(2) For Jent: Before succeeding to the Porter Superior Court bench, what kind of law did you practice and where did you practice it? (50 words) Prior to taking the bench, I worked as a part-time deputy prosecutor and had a private practice with offices in Portage and Gary. My private practice of law consisted of bankruptcy cases, Social Security appeals, some criminal defense work, and some family law.

For Deppe: What kind of law do you practice? Why are you running for the bench in Porter County when your practice is in Lake County? (50 words) I practice criminal and civil law in Porter and Lake counties and prosecute cases in Merrillville Town Court. Although I live in Porter County, my office is in Lake County due to my reputation as a retired Lake Station police officer and the central location for Porter and Lake County courts.

(3) For Jent: How many years have you served on the bench and why are you seeking re-election? Describe your achievements on the bench (100 words) I have served on the bench 19 years. I am seeking re-election because I want to continue serving the people of Porter County. I care deeply for my community, I believe in its people, in its future.

I maintain a video-link courtroom at the Porter County Jail to hear inmate cases, without the expense and security issues incurred when inmates are transported. I developed a program for teen traffic offenders that teaches them accountability for bad choices and impresses on them the importance of safe driving. And I’ve designed programming that lowers the risk of re-offending.

For Deppe: Why are you seeking election to the bench? Describe your qualifications to serve in the judiciary. (100 words). I have spent my life helping people. I am a retired police officer, a prosecutor, defense lawyer, civil lawyer and a judge pro tem. Now, I believe that I could help people by serving as a judge.

Due to my broad experience, I have a sense of fairness and how to do the right thing. Because of my background, I will not view cases through the lens of a prosecutor or defense attorney. Every person who enters the court room should be treated with respect. I believe that the punishment should match the crime while always considering the victims.

(4) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate why you believe yourself to be a better candidate. (100 words)

Jent: In addition to my criminal and civil court call and judicial administrative duties, I’ve developed special problem-solving courts for specific high-risk/high-need offender groups: Adult Drug Court, Veterans Treatment Court, and Re-Entry Court. These are now model programs combining intense supervision, treatment, counseling, and education to divert offenders from incarceration into productive, crime-free lives. I have the passion and knowledge to develop these courts to their full potential.

I am accessible, I expedite cases without jeopardizing litigants’ rights, and I believe everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. I am innovative, fair, and have a strong work ethic.

Deppe: Fresh ideas from someone with broad experience can improve the system. My opponent has been a judge for many years and may have run low on ideas to streamline the court and still provide justice. The attorney’s code of ethics prevents me from criticizing my opponent.

I intend to use my time outside of the courtroom to educate children. A judge can play a vital role in helping children understand the criminal justice system and educate them in the consequences of poor decisions. The time to reach them is well before they become a criminal defendant.

(5) What are the key issues in the race? (150)

Jent: As candidate for judge, I will only address what I have accomplished, and that I will continue to serve my community to the best of my ability, by applying the law, by continuing to look for ways to reduce recidivism, reduce the many needless deaths caused by drug overdoses, and to help our justice-involved veterans find their way home.

Deppe: The key issues are how people are treated in the courtroom and avoiding judicial prejudice. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and professionalism. When victims, defendants, or witnesses feel disrespected, it makes people believe the system is rigged even if the ultimate outcome is just. Respect, fairness, and firmness are not mutually exclusive.

Even when justice requires harsh penalties, it can be done in a manner to help a defendant understand what they did was wrong and that their punishment is a just consequence. This will increase respect for the judiciary and help reduce repeat offender rates.

Everyone has the right to speak and argue their case without a prejudice against them. People should be judged on the facts and the evidence without being prejudiced by reputation or biases.

(6) What role does punishment play in justice? What role mercy? (100 words)

Jent: Where the offender is low-risk/low-need, studies show that immediate, appropriate consequences are most effective. Studies also show that punishment for the sake of punishment, or for revenge, increases the risk of re-offending. As judges, we are bound to follow the law, which in many cases allows us a range of sentencing. That allows us to consider other issues than the crime charged. We often consider the person's family history, addiction issues, family issues. We also consider the victim, the safety of our community. Much thought is put into decision-making when someone’s freedom or safety is at issue.

Deppe: Punishment should be matched to the crime. Serious offenses and repeat offenses will receive harsher punishment. However, courts should also consider what can be done to help this defendant from re-offending. Although justice must be served, it must also know when to show mercy.

Sometimes justice has to be tempered with compassion. A first time offender who steals food to feed her child will likely receive more deference than a serial shoplifter. Punishment or mercy has to be judged on a case-by-case basis. This is only possible through respect in the courtroom.

(7) What do you consider the most significant threat to the residents of Porter County and does this county’s judiciary have a role in addressing it? (75 words)

Jent: We continue to battle the scourge of heroin and other drug addictions, overdoses, and high rate of drug-related arrests. The Porter County judiciary has been pro-active in addressing the problems. Porter County Juvenile Court, under the supervision of Judge Mary Harper, works with drug addicted youth, and I developed and supervise the Porter County Adult Drug Court.

Deppe: Quality of life suffers when people do not trust the police. This trust has been tarnished by the bad actions of a few. This trust must be mended and earned--not demanded. The judiciary can help mend this trust through fair administration of justice to everyone. This includes police.

Gang affiliation is also a growing threat. In addition to those who commit the acts, those who use their power to force others to do bad acts should be punished severely.


Posted 4/8/2016





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