Here is contrast between two Republican judges: David Certo, a Community Court judge in Marion County and former Judge Laura Zeman of Tippecanoe County.
As a prosecutor it has been Laura Zeman's job to be tough on suspected criminals. Unfortunately Zeman carried that role with her to Superior Court over a decade ago, and soon became the first incumbent judge in recent history to be thrown out of office by voters because of it.
Some say it was because she came with the mindset that defendants were guilty until proven innocent. Many have complained that they were treated rudely by the harsh judge.
Whether it was scolding an indigent and mentally-challenged defendant for referring to her as "Laura," or parading a large group of Purdue students who were arrested for underage drinking through her courtroom after notifying the local television news station that she would be doing so, Zeman consistently demonstrated a lack of judgment and compassion.
Russ Pulliam, Associate Editor of The Star, wrote an excellent article on a much different type of judge from Marion County.
David Certo, a Community Court judge, has a much different approach and efficient way to fight crime, writes Pulliam.
|Judge David Certo talks to Russ Pulliam|
Can you imagine what types of changes could be made in Tippecanoe County with that type of attitude coming from a bench in Tippecanoe County? Some people just need a hand up and not another smack down.
Pulliam's article continues, “If I can take people out of the system and get them on the straight path, we’ve allocated our resources better,” Certo said in an interview between court sessions. “As a conservative I want to do what works. If treating people like neighbors works, let’s do more of that.”
In court he addresses offenders with a mix of threats of jail sentences and polite inquiries about their health. “Take care of yourself and stay out of trouble,” he concludes in sending a man charged with public intoxication to alcohol abuse treatment and two days on a community cleanup crew. “Let us know if we can help you in any way. We have food, we have clothing. We have a variety of ways we can help."
In about 10 percent of cases, the judge sends a person to jail. He prefers to see them motivated to get a job and help for alcohol abuse, sometimes through an assignment to the Salvation Army’s Harbor Light Center.
Other offenders are sentenced to work crews for neighborhood cleanups. Some also appear before a neighborhood impact panel, to hear from community leaders about how trespass or public drunkenness looks to crime victims.
“We’re trying to get people’s attention, not by hitting them over the head,” the judge said. “If you get arrested, and the end result is that you get a job, then everybody wins.”
The Golden Rule is simple. Treat others the way you would like to be treated, which is why many in this community will not be part of an effort to send Laura Zeman back into the courtroom. We believe Judge Donat comes much closer to the Certo-style judge than Zeman could ever hope to.
Laura Zeman is no David Certo.
Just ask yourself one question. If you were a defendant, which judge would you prefer to stand before?
You can access Pulliam's story at this link.