A Greenwood resident and southside attorney who has trial court experience and is counsel to the Indiana House of Representatives Republican Caucus has been selected to be the next judge of Johnson Superior Court 2.

Peter Nugent was picked by Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb after a four-month long process to replace longtime Judge Cynthia Emkes, who decided to retire before the end of her term in 2020.

“I’m honored to be selected among the candidates, all very qualified, good men,” Nugent said on Tuesday afternoon after learning from the governor’s staff that he had been selected.

Nugent has extensive experience in both civil and criminal law, the governor’s office said in a news release. He has served as a deputy prosecutor, public defender and has most recently worked in private practice, which he will immediately move to close.

Nugent also has extensive experience serving as a judge pro tempore in civil and criminal cases, including a murder trial, and has served on the Indiana Public Defender Commission and the Indiana State Ethics Commission, the governor’s office cited.

Five local attorneys had sought the job. The other candidates were Johnson County Magistrate Doug Cummins, longtime attorney and former judge Jeff Eggers, Greenwood City Court judge Lewis Gregory and attorney Terry Tolliver, who had worked for the Indiana Attorney General’s Office and the Indiana Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor.

Nugent will oversee the court which sentences felons to prison, oversees hundreds of divorces and supervises the county’s drug and alcohol services program.

He said he had told the governor’s legal counsel that he could be counted on to take a new look at issues and try new approaches.

“Things have changed with people, and how we have to try to deal with circumstances we haven’t seen, both in family law and criminal law,” Nugent said. “I want to try harder to connect with people and find resolutions.”

“I don’t know if that moved them or not,” Nugent said of his interview with the governor’s legal team. “I don’t know what those answers are, but I think we have to be willing to look outside the box and take chances with people.”

Nugent said previously that he sought the job because he had worked as a substitute judge for Emkes and enjoyed the work. He’s proud of the work he has done as an attorney, but said being a judge would allow him the chance to make a difference for people.

As a judge, his sentencing and message to low-level offenders, who perhaps have drug or alcohol addictions, could help guide them to getting help.

“Here’s a chance to help guide them in a direction that may change their lives,” Nugent said previously.

He is a partner at the Indianapolis law firm Thomas & Nugent and is counsel to the Indiana House of Representatives Republican Caucus. During his 30-year career, he has represented clients charged with crimes ranging from public intoxication to capital murder.

He is spending most of the week as a chaperone for fifth graders from Douglas MacArthur Elementary School on the southside as they attend a retreat at Bradford Woods, an outdoor center in Martinsville. He has chaperoned the event for 10 years for the school where he and his children attended. He said he will be working to close his private practice and take office in Superior 2 as soon as possible.

He was picked after the governor’s legal counsel reviewed applications that included questions about community service, involvement in controversial public issues and who would oppose them earning the appointment.

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 will continue to serve as a senior judge in a part-time basis across the state.

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Michele Holtkamp is editor of the Daily Journal. She can be reached at mholtkamp@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2774.