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Surbeck, in DC for award, eager to see Supreme Court


– The first time Allen Superior Court Judge John Surbeck steps foot in the U.S. Supreme Court, he’ll get a national award.

Surbeck said he has never been inside the Capitol Hill building despite growing up in nearby McLean, Va., and traveling to the nation’s capital for a couple of conferences related to the Re-Entry Court he started in 2001.

“I never had a chance to get over there,” Surbeck said Wednesday in a phone interview from his Washington hotel. “Aside from the award itself, it will be significant to me to see the Supreme Court.”

The National Center for State Courts announced in August that Surbeck had been named this year’s recipient of the William H. Rehnquist Award for judicial excellence, named for the Supreme Court chief justice who died in 2005.

Chief Justice John Roberts will present the award to Surbeck at a dinner attended by 250 people this evening in the Supreme Court building.

Surbeck is being recognized as something of a pioneer in establishing and promoting re-entry courts, which allow for the early release of prison inmates in exchange for closer court supervision than required by parole or probation. Surbeck’s Allen County Re-Entry Court sees half the repeat offenders as the average court nationally.

Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Brent Dickson is scheduled to talk for five minutes about Surbeck’s work.

“This has been unbelievable. I am so honored and so humbled to be given this award,” Surbeck said.

Tonight’s guest list includes 30 of Surbeck’s colleagues and friends from the Fort Wayne area.

“I am as honored by that as anything. … I was shocked that there were this many people who were able and interested to come,” he said.

The guests will include Allen Superior Court Judges Wendy Davis, Fran Gull and Stan Levine; county Prosecutor Karen Richards; state Sen. Tom Wyss, R-Fort Wayne; and state Rep. Win Moses, D-Fort Wayne.