The next leader of the county’s juvenile court already has represented teens and children who have broken the law, worked with struggling families and helped with adoptions of foster children.
Andy Roesener will take over leadership of the county’s juvenile and family court starting Jan. 1. The current magistrate, Marla Clark, won the Republican nomination to become judge of the new Superior Court 4. No one currently is running against her, but candidates can still file until noon Tuesday.
Roesener, 47, has worked as both a prosecutor and defense attorney, which has given him well-rounded experience, said Judge Mark Loyd, who is appointing him to oversee the county’s juvenile court.
The juvenile court handles criminal cases for juveniles, but also cases that involve families who are struggling through a situation such as where the parents are getting divorced and the child is in foster care, Roesener said. The juvenile magistrate oversees more than 3,000 cases per year and four court staff members, Loyd said.
Roesener, who is a defense attorney for people who have been charged with crimes and represents families in abuse, welfare or custody disputes, has nearly 20 years of experience in Johnson and Marion county courts.
His top priority as magistrate is to be fair and thoughtful with rulings, especially since family cases can be much more complex than typical criminal cases, Roesener said. Since the magistrate also makes decisions about juveniles who are committing crimes, it will be important to find ways to steer kids away from crime and get them help before they become adults and face possible jail or prison time, he said.
Roesener graduated from Franklin College in 1989 before getting a law degree from Drake University in Iowa. He returned to Johnson County in 1997 and worked as a deputy prosecutor in Johnson and Marion counties for four years and also worked as a legal adviser for the Indiana General Assembly. Since then he’s been running a local practice in Franklin, doing primarily criminal defense, but also family law. He will have to close the practice when he takes over as magistrate.
The juvenile and family court is overseen by the county circuit court and Loyd, so the magistrate is appointed by and overseen by the judge. Roesener often works cases in Loyd’s court, so the judge said he was familiar with Roesener’s experience and abilities. His background as both a prosecutor and defense attorney also helped set him apart from about 15 other candidates who applied and were considered, Loyd said.
“Really the more seasoned we get, the better we are at our skills and our abilities to represent clientele. And it’s the same way with the judge, being able to come to the plate with experience as a prosecutor or experience as a defense attorney. Those skill sets are not carried by all attorneys,” Loyd said.
Every case in the juvenile court affects the life of a child in some way, so cases require the magistrate to think of some of the long-term impacts of their decisions, Clark said. The juvenile court magistrate also has to communicate and coordinate with several government agencies, such as juvenile probation or child protective services, Clark said.
Since Roesener has experience in the county and with juvenile cases, he already has built some of those relationships, she said.
“It feels really good to be able to help families and help children get back on track. It’s hard work and it’s really rewarding. He’ll be really glad he accepted the challenge,” Clark said.