The Journal Gazette
Thursday, January 09, 2020 1:00 am

Five judges on Superior Court seek new terms

MATTHEW LEBLANC | The Journal Gazette

Three Allen County judges recently appointed to the bench will ask voters to return them to their posts.

Allen Superior Court judges Jennifer DeGroote, Andrea Trevino and David Zent each were appointed in 2018 and announced Wednesday that their names will be on the general election ballot in November.

Judges Craig Bobay and Fran Gull also announced they will seek reelection.

All the judges' terms end this year. Elections for judges are nonpartisan.

Bobay was appointed in 2013 and elected in 2014. Gull took the bench in 1997 and was elected to her first four-year term in 1996.

Bobay and DeGroote preside over civil cases, while Gull and Zent handle criminal cases. Trevino oversees the Allen County Juvenile Center and oversees juvenile cases in the court's Family Relations Division.

In a news conference held in a crowded third-floor courtroom at the Allen County Courthouse, the judges each highlighted professional accomplishments and said they will continue efforts to streamline services and help nonviolent offenders through programs such as Drug Court.

Each judge spoke briefly, and leadership was a theme.

Bobay, a former magistrate in Superior and Circuit courts, said Allen Superior Court was the first in the state where most judges are female. Five of the court's nine judges are women.

Gull oversees Drug Court, a problem-solving court that offers defendants access to treatment and other services instead of jail sentences. She said local judges' moves to implement that and other problem-solving courts – along with efforts to draft rules for juries followed by other courts – are respected by jurists across Indiana.

“Allen County is blessed with having some of the best problem-solving courts in the state,” Gull said.

Bobay spearheaded the creation of a local commercial court designed to streamline business disputes handled by the court. He also heads a state panel to expand commercial courts in Indiana.

DeGroote was appointed by Gov. Eric Holcomb to replace Judge Stanley Levine, who retired in 2018. She has worked to make it easier for people to apply for protective orders. “I am determined to continue this work,” DeGroote said.

Trevino also was appointed by Holcomb and said she has reworked processes to cut wait times for trials. She recently secured about $430,000 in state grant funding for work to reduce truancy and recidivism.

“The goal of my work, and the reward as well, are youth offenders who leave my court better than when they arrived,” Trevino said.

Zent replaced Judge John Surbeck, who established and oversaw Re-Entry Court – an initiative to help offenders transition to normal lives. Zent now oversees the program, which he vowed to continue.

“Allen County truly does have some of the finest jurists in the state of Indiana,” he said.

While Zent and the other four Superior Court judges want to stay, another judge – Wendy Davis – will announce plans Friday to move to Allen Circuit Court. Davis, who presides over criminal cases, will run to replace Judge Thomas Felts, who announced he will step down when his term expires Dec. 31.

Allen Circuit Court handles a variety of cases including mortgage foreclosures, civil cases and cases involving drunk driving and habitual traffic offenders. Candidates for judge there declare whether they are a Republican or Democrat.

Allen Superior Court typically handles more serious criminal cases.


County officials file for ballot

Two Republican Allen County officials filed reelection paperwork with the Election Board on Wednesday: Treasurer William Royce and County Commissioner Nelson Peters.

Royce, in his first term, replaced former Treasurer Susan Orth, who left office in 2017 because of term limits.

Peters, who represents the commissioners' 1st District, took office in 2005 and spent the previous 10 years as a member of the Allen County Council.

“Now is not the time to take our foot off of the gas pedal. We have made great strides in our permitting processes and Allen County has helped to develop a landscape providing great business opportunities,” Peters said in a news release announcing his campaign. “We must maintain that momentum to ensure that companies will want to continue to expand and locate here.”

– Dave Gong, The Journal Gazette

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