In the general
election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Democrat Matt Soliday and Republican Mike Fish
will vie for the open bench of Porter Superior Court 1.
Tribune invited Soliday and Fish to respond to candidate questionnaires.
The Tribune set word limits and reserved the right to edit for
(1) Age, place of
residence, law school, terms on the bench.
Chesterton; Valparaiso University School of Law; Federal Community
Defenderís Office, Hammond.
residence and practice in Valparaiso; Valparaiso University School of Law.
(2) Why are you
seeking election to the bench of Porter Superior Court 1? (75 words)
uncle was a judge and, as a young man, I was fortunate to observe him in the
courtroom. That experience helped me appreciate the impact judges have on
both the legal system and the people within it. I want to ensure that
fairness and justice are always protected in our courts. Nothing would give
me greater satisfaction than to serve as judge in the community where I have
lived my entire life.
Fish: I am
called to serve and passionate about helping and protecting people. I strive
to follow Judge Roger Bradfordís example of offering dignity, fairness, and
respect in Superior Court 1. I believe the court offers expedient dispute
resolution for people in civil matters. When appropriate, in criminal
sentencing, the court helps people return to a strong position as a citizen.
I am well equipped to strongly sentence violent criminals to protect our
(3) Describe your
qualifications for the bench (125 words)
Soliday: I have
practiced law for over 28 years primarily as a trial attorney. I have always
served the public in various capacities as either a deputy prosecutor,
deputy public defender or representing the Porter County Animal Shelter
Board. As a deputy prosecutor, I tried and won more jury cases than anyone
else in the office at that time. I left the prosecutor's office to serve the
public as a deputy public defender. During that time, I became one of the
few death penalty qualified attorneys in Porter County. I further honed my
litigation skills by practicing in federal court handling complex cases.
Also, I was an adjunct professor at V.U. Law School.
Fish: I bring
extensive legal experience to this election along with a rich lifeís
journey, as a veteran with 19 years in Army JAG Corps and 31 years total
service in the National Guard. I faced one combat tour to Afghanistan and
recently deployed to the Middle East and Indo-Pacific. I have deployed to
and worked with armed forces from seven countries. I have a broad worldview.
In 22 years of practice based in Porter County, I focused upon family
matters, bankruptcy, and general litigation. I also served as Army
prosecutor with JAG. With significant participation as Temporary Judge in
Porter County courts—over 75 appointments in six years. Iíve sat for many
bench trials and hundreds of matters. My experience is unmatched in this
(4) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
main issue in this race is the right kind of experience. Judge Bradford will
retire from the bench after 30+ years leaving big shoes to fill. The judge
in this courtroom does not hear family or juvenile law cases nor bankruptcy
cases. This courtís docket consists of felony criminal cases and major civil
cases. The incoming judge should have experience in the criminal and civil
areas of law—areas in which I have over 28 years of litigation experience.
The citizens of Porter County need a judge to be able to hit the ground
running and meet the demands of the job from day one. Another issue is
keeping the public safe in court proceedings during this pandemic. I would
fully utilize court video and phone conferences as much as possible.
administering justice remains a significant concern. Providing government
services while protecting high risk people and respecting risk averse people
is challenging. We manage it through cooperation with county government, the
bench, and bar. I will continue appropriate resolution of this dynamic
services to the courtís customers is the future. Expanding online dispute
resolution as an alternative to face-to-face mediation creates another way
to resolve litigation, saving judicial time and encouraging people to settle
their matters. Litigants reach better solutions on their own terms and are
happier with results they personally control.
Justice reform is
ongoing. I plan to facilitate community outreach, especially to middle and
high school students. I hope to connect with youth through presentations,
programming (mock trials, ďWe The PeopleĒ), and other civic engagement.
Stepping out from behind the bench and interacting with students promotes
transparency and understanding essential right now.
(5) Does the
judiciary have any role in addressing Porter Countyís opioid crisis? Or is
that more properly a matter for law enforcement? (75 words)
courtís main role is in sentencing. There are many treatment programs the
court can use to help people with drug addictions to get their life back on
track. The court can also refer a person to the Porter County Drug Court
and, in other cases, include drug counseling as part of a sentence. However,
harsher sentences for drug dealers bringing opioids into our community are
built into the sentencing penalties by the state legislature.
entire justice system must be concerned with the opioid crisis. The court is
an appropriate lead for effectively addressing the problem because it
connects drug users to treatment. Sentenced users can learn tools and
structure to pursue recovery. Protecting the public from violent criminals,
including gangs and major drug dealers, remains essential. Incarceration is
also treatment. If convicted, violent drug offenders must receive impactful
sentences that disrupt drug markets and keep criminals locked up.
(6) What is your
view on plea bargaining? (75 words)
bargaining is a necessary part of the criminal justice system because of the
number of cases. If no one pled guilty, then the courts would be
overwhelmed. A plea agreement does not allow for criminals to escape
responsibility. If someone pleads guilty and accepts responsibility for
their wrongdoings and the judge finds it to be fair to the victims, then the
plea agreement should be accepted.
bargaining is critical, especially when victims are properly involved. An
accused person willing to admit wrongdoing and accept consequences helps
streamline the courtís docket. Accused people partly decide their destiny;
the state is freed up to work other crimes; defense focuses on tougher
cases. More cases are handled efficiently, and this results in a safer
community. Justice is our most important social institution, and insofar as
plea bargaining provides appropriate justice, it is favorable.
(7) Indiana Code
provides, for first-degree murder with aggravating circumstances, the
imposition of the death penalty. As a matter of principle, do you support or
oppose capital punishment? (75 words)
Practicing criminal law for over 28 years, I have experience in multiple
death penalty cases. Under Indiana law, the death penalty must be
recommended by the jury for the court to impose the sentence. If the jury
reaches a sentencing recommendation, the law requires the court to sentence
the defendant accordingly. Under the judicial ethics rules, I am unable to
state a personal position regarding capital punishment.
question seeks my individual principles, but ethical rules require me not to
share them. In Indiana, the prosecutor decides whether to seek a death
sentence. Upon conviction, the question goes to the jury. The statute
directs the court to follow a unanimous jury decision recommending death. I
own no scruple that would prevent me from pronouncing the death penalty, and
can perform the judicial role of imposing the death penalty as required by
(8) Candidates for
the bench run as Republicans or Democrats. Does a judgeís political
affiliation have any bearing on his or her philosophy of justice? (75 words)
judgeís political affiliation should not have any bearing on his or her
philosophy of justice. Policy making should be left to the legislatures who
pass the laws. The judge must apply the law as set by the state legislature
fairly and equally without regard to politics.
Fish: As a
judge, I intend to treat everyone who comes before me fairly. I will make
decisions by applying the law and understanding the facts in evidence. A
person's political affiliation will not matter. The election is political,
but the job is not. I hope voters realize that even if we chose different
parties, I am the best candidate for judge. Please consider my whole person
when deciding whether to elect me as your judge.