In the general
election on Tuesday, Nov. 3, Democrat David L. Chidester will face a
challenge from Republican Christopher A. Buckley for the bench of Porter
Superior Court 4.
Tribune invited Chidester and Buckley to respond to candidate
questionnaires. The Tribune set word limits and reserved the right to
edit for length.
(1) For Chidester:
Age, place of residence, law school, terms on the bench: 65; Center
Township; Valparaiso University School of Law, 1981; 18 years on the bench.
For Buckley: Age,
place of residence, place of practice, law school. 40; Valparaiso
University School of Law; full-time general law practice in Portage.
(2) For Chidester:
Why are you seeking re-election to the bench of Porter Superior Court 4? (75
words) Continuing the work of our Mental Illness Problem Solving Court,
over which I preside, is extremely important to me. Continuity and
predictability from the same judge are important to achieving success in
mental illness and addiction cases, which involve much of our caseload. With
the recent retirements of four judges and two magistrates, I will be the
only judge in the Valparaiso Courthouse having long-term experience in the
complicated business of running a court.
For Buckley: Why
are you seeking election to the bench of Porter Superior Court 4? (75 words)
I am running for Porter Superior Court 4 because I will bring humility,
respect, understanding, dignity, and most importantly--the ability to
listen--back to Court 4. Emotional outbursts, disrespecting litigants and
attorneys, and interrupting have no place whatsoever in any court of law. I
have a seasoned track record of stepping up to lead and defuse very hostile
and difficult situations. This January I hope to bring this much needed calm
to Court 4.
(3) For Chidester:
Describe your achievements on the bench (125 words). Since 2003, 162,000
new cases have been filed before me, yet our official statistics show that
Porter Superior Court 4 has the lowest number of undecided cases, by far, in
the county. I operate professionally, and give each person a fair
opportunity to be heard. The Mental Illness Court is my proudest
achievement. I have worked extensively on state judicial committees to
improve the way our judicial system assists those who come to the courts for
help. I like to help people and have made myself available as the only judge
in the Courthouse who performs wedding ceremonies. Also, during the COVID-19
courthouse quarantine, I worked every day in the courtroom conducting video
hearings or painting the offices of Division 4.
Describe your qualifications for the bench (125 words) In 2015, I was
elected by caucus to serve as the Lowell Town Judge. I served in that
capacity for just over four years, and did an exceptional job. Some of the
cases I commonly heard included operating while intoxicated, domestic
battery, and drug possession--many of the same cases I will hear as judge in
Court 4 if elected. Many of these cases went to bench trial, where I heard
countless hours of witness testimony and issued written opinions. For the
past six years, I also volunteered in Court 4 for similar cases, including
numerous bench trials. I have practiced for more than a decade in nearly
every area of the law, and taught as an adjunct professor at Valparaiso
University School of Law.
(4) What are the
key issues in this race? (150 words)
Experience. Residency. Commitment to Community.
diverse duties. I have written the Porter County Local Rules of Court,
drafted caseload plans directing where cases are filed, written employee
policy manuals, and partnered with the community and justice system
stakeholders such as the Community Corrections Advisory Board, which I now
I have lived in
Porter County since 1977 with a 40+ year commitment to our community. I have
been your judge since 2003.
My opponent was
registered to vote in Lake County from Jan. 7, 2016, to Feb. 12, 2020, which
was the filing deadline for this election. During the time he claimed Lake
County residency, he sought appointment as a judge or magistrate in Porter
County five times. Gov. Hocomb rejected his judicial applications every time
and the local board of judges also determined he would not be the best
selection for any of the open magistrate positions.
stated, judicial candidates are prohibited from compromising impartiality or
independence. Therefore, judicial elections are primarily based upon the
character of each candidate. As stated, the issues I feel are most important
in this race are humility, respect, understanding, dignity, and most
importantly the ability to listen to prosecutors, litigants, attorneys, and
experts. A judge’s first job is to listen; to be thoughtful, careful,
respectful, and considerate. I learned this skill early on in my adult life
growing up in my hometown of Chesterton, and expanded upon it as a corporal
leading a squad of Marines in an infantry battalion. That is exactly who I
was as a judicial officer, both on and off the bench. I enjoyed my four
years as judge very much, and this was reflected in the great people I was
surrounded by. I hope to bring just this leadership and passion to Court 4.
(5) Does the
judiciary have any role in addressing Porter County’s opioid crisis? Or is
that more properly a matter for law enforcement? (75 words)
and studies show the greatest potential for success in dealing with the
opioid crisis is the use of problem-solving courts, for example, my Mental
Health Court. It requires defendants to attend court weekly, participate in
intensive case management and therapy, and undergo frequent drug testing. We
use appropriate sanctions, incentives, and encouragement. It has worked. The
Chief Justice of Indiana said problem solving courts work and are our best
defense in this crisis.
persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. For
this reason, a court’s role in the opioid crisis is limited to individuals
who have admitted guilt or been found guilty of an opioid related offense.
Sentencing should accomplish both the punitive and rehabilitative goals of
our system. In other words, balancing these offenses as both crimes and
addictions best serves the offenders as well as the general public.
(6) What is your
view on plea bargaining? (75 words)
Agreements between the prosecution and defense that involve those who are
guilty admitting their guilt and receiving a sentence that meets society’s
demands for deterrence, rehabilitation, and accountability allow the courts
to process the tremendous volume of cases we face. The judge always has the
right to reject a plea agreement. The system works when the defense is
strong and the prosecutor is prepared, strong ,and confident. Although I
very much enjoy conducting jury trials.
Fortunately or unfortunately, plea bargaining is a given in our criminal
system. Our system could not operate without the efficiency of agreements
between prosecutors and defendants on the resolution of cases, due to the
limited time and resources to hold trials. A judge’s limited role is to
trust the judgment of the professionals in his or her courtroom, and
scrutinize these agreements for overall fairness to the general public as
well as to the defendant.
(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)
Division 4 would never see a death penalty case. It hears small claims,
traffic tickets, misdemeanors, and minor felony cases. I believe a judge has
the responsibility to help protect the lives of Porter County’s citizens
from impaired and intoxicated drivers, assist battered spouses, combat
animal abuse, follow the law, and help our community whenever possible. I
have done so for 18 years and consider it to be my life’s work.
Buckley: As a
judicial candidate, I am prohibited by the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct
from making any statement that could be perceived as affecting my
impartiality or independence as a future judicial officer. For this reason,
I cannot take any position on an issue that could come before me such as
capital punishment, even though it is unlikely to come before this Court of
primarily misdemeanors and small claims.
(8) Candidates for
the bench run as Republicans or Democrats. Does a judge’s political
affiliation have any bearing on his or her philosophy of justice? (75 words)
Politics has no place in the courtroom. Judges must constantly prioritize
the need for fairness, equity, and adherence to the law. I run as a
Democrat; however, throughout my tenure on the bench, I have been blessed to
have as my wife Mary Harper, a Republican Porter County judge for the last
35 years. We often talk about the need for balance in performing our work
both in and outside of the courtroom.
judge’s political affiliation should never have any influence whatsoever on
the outcome of any case. In general, however, I have always had the deepest
admiration for the jurists with the strictest view of judicial restraint. It
will never be my job to make law from the bench--only to apply the black
letter of the law to each case. I will not read into any statute or
ordinance words that are simply not there.