The candidate list is set, and five men want to be the next judge of a court that sentences felons to prisons, oversees hundreds of divorces and supervises the county’s drug and alcohol services program.
The job of judge of Johnson Superior Court 2 will be available because longtime Judge Cynthia Emkes has announced her retirement before the end of her term. Her elected term is up at the end of 2020, so Gov. Eric Holcomb will name her replacement.
The candidates are Johnson County Magistrate Doug Cummins, longtime attorney and former judge Jeff Eggers, Greenwood City Court judge Lewis Gregory, southside attorney Peter Nugent and attorney Terry Tolliver.
Cummins, Eggers, Gregory and Nugent had previously announced their intention to seek the job. Tolliver also applied before the deadline in April.
Tolliver has made his career in public service, working about 17 years in the Indiana Attorney General’s Office or for the Indiana Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor. His most recent job for the attorney general was in the homeowner protection unit.
Tolliver is now doing litigation for the Indianapolis firm Brattain, Minnix and Garcia but wants to get back to public service, preferably in the community where he is raising a family.
“That’s another reason that this is a great role,” Tolliver said. “Here is an opportunity for me to continue to serve, but more locally.”
He helps train lawyers throughout the country on proper trial techniques and if selected as a judge, would work to help further develop the local bar association, he said. He would be active in the community, shedding light on the county legal system, and would want to continue to study problem-solving courts and any steps local judges can take to stop the cycles that lead people to be incarcerated, he said.
Now begins the process of vetting each of the five candidates in-depth.
The governor’s legal counsel is reviewing their applications, where they answered questions about community service, involvement in controversial public issues and considered who would oppose them earning the appointment. The legal team also will interview other judges, attorneys or residents to ask questions about the applicants.
The application asks candidates to disclose details from their personal or professional life, such as alcohol or drug abuse, financial matters, sexual conduct or accusations of illegal or unethical conduct, that could cause embarrassment to the candidate or the governor and whether the candidate has ever been disciplined or cautioned, either formally or informally, by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications or the Indiana Supreme Court. Each candidate has to agree to release federal, state and local tax records, criminal and driving histories, employment and medical records and credit reports.
Emkes is the county’s longest-serving judge at 30 years and was the county’s first female judge. She announced her retirement effective at the end of April earlier this year, citing the demands of the job in consideration of her family and health needs.
She has been certified by the Indiana Supreme Court as a senior judge through a state program that calls on former or retired judges to serve as a replacement for a regular judge or to handle certain types of cases. The Indiana Supreme Court also decided she should continue as a temporary judge in Superior Court 2 until her replacement is named.
The other candidates have decades of experience across all types of legal work.
Cummins is a former deputy prosecutor, veteran of the U.S. Air Force and is enrolled in the Indiana Judicial College, which is a college-credit program through the Indiana Office of Court Services. He currently works as a Johnson County magistrate judge and oversaw 15,000 cases last year, including small claims lawsuits, protective orders and collection cases. When needed, he helps the five elected judges in their courts, presiding over divorces, foreclosures and criminal cases.
Eggers was a Johnson County judge from 1982 to 1994 and has worked in private practice at his firm, Eggers Woods, in Franklin, but has been on leave since October while working as a temporary judge in a Morgan County superior court at the request of the Indiana Supreme Court.
Gregory has been Greenwood City Court judge for 21 years and has started many model programs, such as the drug treatment court and the veterans court. He was formerly chairman of the Indiana State Parole Board, worked in private practice and was a deputy prosecutor.
Nugent has experience as a deputy prosecutor, defense attorney and public defender and is a partner at the Indianapolis law firm Thomas & Nugent and counsel to the Indiana House of Representatives Republican Caucus.
Here are the current candidates for Johnson Superior Court 2 judge: