by: Dan Barton, Publisher, The New Harmony Gazette.

What follows are excerpts of a speech given by Posey County Indiana Circuit Court candidate for Judge, Craig Goedde, at an April 30th New Harmony Kiwanis meeting:

I am Craig Goedde. I am running for Circuit Court Judge. First, let me tell you that I’m blessed to even be here. I was blessed to be approached by a few people who thought that I might make a good judge candidate. I’ve been very fortunate since then.

I’ve been practicing law in Posey County for twenty years. Some of my very first cases were down in Posey County, down in Judge Redwine’s Court. I suspect because I was the new kid he was going to test me a little bit because our office was in Vanderburgh County. He’d walk in from behind the podium and ask me to call the case to make sure that I was on top of it. He did that a couple of times. I think it must have gone well because he quit doing it.

I’m married to my wife Kelly. We’ve been married for 18 years. We’ve got three beautiful children. One is my daughter Taylor. She’s at University of Southern Indiana (USI). She’s a senior out there. She would have been graduating this year before she switched her major from Occupational Therapy to Nursing. It’s what my wife does for a living or did for a living. We’ve also got a Sophomore at Mater Dei and we’ve got a 7th Grader. We’ve kind of got them all across the board. It’s been nice to have that difference in the age groups. Just because we’ve been able to spend time with each one of them as they’ve hit different tiers as they’ve grown up.

I did not choose this profession. I did but I didn’t. I got a big shove from above. I grew up in a construction family. So I kind of grew up digging ditches for a living. My grandfather started a company called Goedde Plumbing and Heating. A Union Shop on the west side of Evansville, which did a lot of work down here in Posey County. As soon as I was old enough to hold a shovel I had to go out and work. As soon as I got old enough to drive I got a driver’s license and got what’s called a “working member of the firm” permit.

It was a Union Shop and you had to go through a protocol to be able to work on the job sites with tools and you had to have a “working member of the firm permit”. I was able to drive out to job sites to look for materials and do those types of things as a “working member of the firm” and then stay out at those sites all day and work. So that literally gave me a lot of hands-on experience. It gave me a lot of background on where I started building houses and those sorts of things. Those are things I could do.

It’s nice to be able to look back and see the things that you have done. Just to have that sense of accomplishment as you move along. Sadly in our world sometimes we don’t see that as much because sometimes we only see bits and pieces of somebody’s lives to be able to help them along the way. You see those little milestones but then you don’t get to see it all the way through. You don’t see what happens when somebody else takes over.

For example, if you’re representing a criminal defendant and you get them in probation, well then, sometimes they just take off with the Probation Officer. You don’t see them for a year. The Court sets a review date and they come back to court and if they’ve done everything that the Court’s told them to do, then they are getting their reward for what they were offered to

do. So you don’t necessarily keep in contact with them in the interim or get to see them as much. Unless of course, they get into trouble, then they are calling you right away.

How I became a lawyer is a good story and a bad story! I told you earlier I was blessed and I still look at everything as a blessing. Unfortunately, my mom was killed in a car accident just a week after I turned eighteen. So in a very quick way, I got acclimated to the lawyer scene, both good and bad. The bad part is I lost my mother who was raising myself and my two older brothers. I have two other siblings through my dad and my stepmother. At that time we lived in a house with my mom.

After she was killed we basically took over all the household responsibilities. We took over everything it takes to keep a household running. So the three of us really pulled together to get that done. Which again is another blessing. But it also showed me a different side of lawyers. It showed me the compassion side of what my profession is and I don’t think a lot of people see that. Without this particular attorney’s help, I don’t know how we would have made it through that. We had a very big support system through our family. My family’s pretty large on both sides.

But it was a different kind of thing when you’re looking at two other kids who are about your age and thinking how are we going to do this. Watching him do what he did, taking the comfort he did in us was a very eye-opening experience for me as to the profession.

It still, ironically enough, was not when I made the decision to do what I did. I went off to Indiana University (I.U.) to get a Business degree because I had a family who had a business. Other than a cousin who went to I.U., I was the first grandchild coming out of school to go to college to get an education. So my goal and my way of saving the world, if you will, was to come back and take over the family business. And I was going to run this business. After I got back from I.U. it was probably the slowest summer that that company has ever seen. And again, one more blessing.

I did about three jobs with my dad because he was teaching me how to take things off of the blueprints and bid work, going to bid openings. But there really wasn’t a lot of work out there. A company our size was feeding off the crumbs in the day of Industrial Contractors and Sterling and Deig and some of the bigger companies in town. We were feeding off their crumbs and staying busy with the crumbs. So I decided that I was kind of a glorified truck driver after going to I.U. I wanted to do something more and needed that little push to go back to I.U. because I thought I needed to be doing something more for everyone.

So I was going, and I was going to take my LSAT and I was going to go back to school. That’s when the drive set into me. So when I told my dad I was going to do that, I wasn’t sure what kind of reaction I was going to get. He was very happy with my not doing something that I liked doing but seeking something that I wanted to do because I loved doing it. Now I know that nobody knows what you’re going to love doing until you start doing it. But I felt very compelled to go help other people the way they were helping us. And that’s why I went back to school.

So I was two years out of school and I went back. If anybody tells you that’s not a difficult thing to do when you get into a rhythm, it’s a very difficult thing to do to get back into a rhythm. So I was very fortunate. I found a very good school to go to up in Dayton, Ohio. It was a little private school in a small community which is where I get a lot of my orientation from. I also got a lot of support and a lot of help. There are not too many people who go to law school that just flounder out or fail without asking somebody to help or be willing to help somebody else.

So in that way you learn a lot of traits and characteristics of how you’re going to do that. When I came back again I was very fortunate because I found a job right away in a small firm. By virtue of a small firm, there wasn’t a whole lot that we let come in our doors that we would let go outside the doors. So I learned a whole lot. The only thing we didn’t do was patent work

and we didn’t do bankruptcies. My practice now goes across barriers. I don’t do bankruptcies and patent work and I don’t do hard corp tax defense. The only tax-related issues I deal with is if they’re involved with an estate or a divorce.

Eighty percent of what I do is, what I call, fits under a family law umbrella. That’s your divorces, your custody fights, your child support modifications, your hearing time modifications, but then that’s also sometimes a little more rewarding work; work like your guardianship and your adoptions. There’s nothing more rewarding than to go to an adoption. Most of us are just born into a family, but when you have somebody who’s actively seeking somebody, so much so that they’re willing to go to court to do it, it’s really a blessing when you see that case get awarded and the child is going to a good home. That’s pretty much why I became an attorney. It’s been a process of getting to where I’m at. Even when I went out on my own or merged with the present firm, we’ve kind of kept that blanket door open as to what we do.

The other guys in my office kind of have a specialty, they do a little bit more isolated stuff. I kind of grew up in that Main Street type shop. The reason I love being a lawyer is that I can very strongly advocate for somebody or somebody’s position. I don’t always have to agree with it. But I advocate for it. That’s very rewarding to me to know you’re reaching out trying to help somebody get something accomplished.

The reason I want to become a Judge is that as an attorney it’s easy to pound the table and to argue. If the facts are on your side you argue those. As the old adage goes, “If the law is on your side then argue the law and if nothing’s on your side, you just stand up and pound the table.” So it’s easy to do that. It’s easy to be compelling from one side. But I think, at least from the pushing that I’ve got to get here today, that next step is to be able to make those decisions, not just to pound the table, not just to argue one side but to be able to see both sides and then be able to make a decision that is going to affect somebody. And hopefully will effect them in a very positive way.

If for some reason that means there’s going to be a review, if there’s something that could come back or something you’re not sure about, then as a judge you have the power to say, “Here is my decision today, but you know what, I want you guys to come back here in about four to six months depending on the timeframe, depending on the issue. I want to re-evaluate things. If things are going smoothly and you tell me you don’t need to come, that things are going well then you don’t need to come back. But if they’re not going well then let’s get back together and work things out, work out the wrinkles and let’s see where we go.”

The goal of all this is so that we don’t have to come back to court. That’s really what we want to do as a society. We don’t want people on the streets selling drugs. We don’t want people beating their kids. We don’t want people beating their wives or husbands. We don’t want to see that. So the idea here is to deter them from coming to court if they don’t need to. Now if they need to come to court because they need the help, then the doors need to be wide open. Whether they’re hiring an attorney or whether they’re coming in representing themselves they should get no deference. The doors should be wide open.

That was something I found out after I decided to run. The Circuit Court has a Mission Statement. I don’t know how many people in here knew that before the election process started. I think that’s another thing good about this community. I think with this election process starting there’s a lot of people who have learned a lot of things about the Circuit Court. One of those things is that we have a Mission Statement. I’m unaware of any other county around here that has a Mission Statement. So I was highly impressed to even know that. But more importantly to know that part of the Mission is to ensure that there is this unbiased approach for everybody who walks in the door. That includes those people who want to come in and represent themselves. For rules of evidence let’s say, and you walk in to be your own lawyer, that means you have to go by the same rules as we do, which means we know the rules

but somebody walking in doesn’t. What the Court has said is that I’m not going to treat them any differently than I’m going to treat you. The Court says we’re going to treat them the same way. I think that’s wonderful. I think that needs to be propelled. Probably more so in many more courtrooms.

There were rumors going around as to whether Judge Redwine was going to retire. I heard them, so I just called him up and asked him if I could have a private appointment with him. I just wanted to know. I sat down and had a nice conversation with him. I thought it was going to be about 15 to 20 minutes. It turned out to be about an hour or so. But very candidly he let me know that he was going to retire. At that point I let him know that I would really like to seek the position. Given the small Bar that we are and the congenial Bar that we are, when a sitting judge decides to run again, I said to him, “I’m not going to run against you if you’re going to run again.” Once he told me he was not going to run, I, per se, did not ask for his blessing, but I let him know that it was something I that I thought I would be good at and something I felt compelled to do and he wished me well. I’ve had a few conversations with him since then and they’ve all been positive. He doesn’t talk about the race. He doesn’t talk about the candidates, to my understanding. He just kind of wants to be left indifferent to that. I’m happy about that. But again, my role in that is to make the best difference I can in this community.

So when I looked at the position I looked at it thinking why I’m doing it. Not necessarily focusing myself on the other candidates or what their qualities are. I know my qualities and how hard I’m going to work. Not just to get the job but to keep the job. Then to improve the community. My kids grow up here, your kids grow up here, your grandkids grow up here. The whole idea here is to keep this community moving forward as best as we can.

I know the Prosecutor’s office and law enforcement throughout the county have done a wonderful job. This county is not the same today as it was five or six years ago. I think everybody would admit that. They’ve done a really good job cleaning it up. I don’t see us backsliding. I don’t see why we should backslide. I don’t see this ever becoming a county where people think they can come in here and do things that are unruly. And think that would be ok or would think that citizens of this community are going to tolerate it. So I think that’s definitely a good thing.

There has been a lot of talk about this additional courtroom and this potential Magistrate’s position or Senior Judge position. Every county will carry what is called a Senior Judge. To kind of pick up the extra slack. The reason is that sometimes the court gets overloaded with cases. Posey County is no different.

The CHINS cases; I’m sure you’ve probably all heard of them. In this case, it’s Children In Need of Services (CHINS). When you have a child that’s alleged to be abused or neglected or abandoned, they potentially become CHINS cases. What happens is the State has to come in and make them wards of the State and protect them while their mom or dad or caretaker get additional service to help them with what might be going on. CHINS cases have just exploded and that’s pretty much all across the State. The numbers have blown up. So everybody is in this effort to figure out how we solve them. How we make them more efficiently processed through our courts. If there’s a way to elevate them, if there’s a way to start the education on a lower level to work our way up, over time, hopefully, we will not have so many CHINS cases. We will not have so many children who are out there and in that position to have to worry about that. Again that starts with the community.

I’m one of those community members. Election or no election, if there’s a better way to do some things if there are ways we can become more efficient if there are ways we can make our community better in general, let’s figure out how to do that, let’s talk and let’s get it going.

Because it’s an election year everybody’s a little bit tip-toes. They, DCS, don’t want to do anything because this is an election year. They don’t want to favor one candidate over another candidate. So I asked, “Let’s set up a meeting and invite everybody you want to invite and talk about how we’re going to fix it.” I’ve been doing this stuff for 20 years. The point is we are all in court every day or every other day or every third day. We’re all dealing with these types of cases and they have to be resolved. So if we’re going to do it the prosecutor’s office needs to be involved. Law enforcement needs to be involved. The Department of Childs Services needs to be involved. This is not one department or a one-person show. This is going to be a community effort.

It’s very important to get that done. On that note, I saw a quote from a basketball coach that I thought was interesting. He said on a good team the coach holds the players accountable but on a great team, the players will hold the players accountable. And I don’t see any difference. We’re not a good team, we’re a great team. That means that each one of us community members needs to hold each one of us accountable.

Holding ourselves accountable starts here at the Cafe or down at the Court House. The Sheriff, the Judge, the Prosecutor it’s anybody, especially those who want to work for the community. You’re to be held accountable by your community. That’s something we all need to do. So whoever you elect as the next Judge, hold them accountable. Whoever you elect as the next Prosecutor or the next Sheriff, hold them accountable. We are all accountable to each other. But certainly, when we are elected to serve a purpose for your benefit, we have to be accountable to you.

I very much appreciate your time. I very much appreciate you inviting me here today.


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