Four seek GOP slot for county’s circuit court judge

Candidates for Huntington County Circuit Court Judge are (from left) Jill Denman, Jamie Groves, Davin Smith and Justin Wall.
Candidates for Huntington County Circuit Court Judge are (from left) Jill Denman, Jamie Groves, Davin Smith and Justin Wall. Photos provided.

Four candidates, Jill M. Denman, Jamie M. Groves, Davin G. Smith and Justin R. Wall, will appear on the Republican ballot in the May 8 primary, all hopeful of winning the Huntington County Circuit Court Judge race.
The position was vacated in Dec. 2017 when Thomas Hakes retired. Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Groves to fill the position through the end of the year.
The candidates were each asked the questions, “Why are you seeking, or seeking to retain, this office? If you are elected, what do you hope to accomplish?”
Jill M. Denman
Denman, 46, resides at 4 Stone Ridge Drive, Huntington. She is currently a partner at Matheny, Hahn & Denman, LLP.
She graduated from Wabash High School in 1989 and earned a BA, cum laude, in political science and English from Bradley University in 1993. She entered a co-op program through American University in 1992 and interned with the Washington, DC Attorney General’s Office in the Victim/Witness Unit. She obtained her JD degree from Indiana University School of Law in 1996.
Denman’s memberships include the Huntington County Bar Association (past president), Indiana State Bar Association (past delegate for Huntington County), American Bar Association and Allen County Bar Association. She is also a member of Evangelical United Methodist Church.
Current community organizations include Rotary Club (past president and former board member), Board of the Huntington House, campaign chair for the Small Business and Professional Unit for the United Way, Indiana Juvenile Defense Advisory Board, Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative Taskforce (JDAI) of Wabash County and Juvenile Training Immersion Program Trainer for the National Juvenile Defenders Organization.
Her past community involvement includes Huntington Cancer Services, Huntington County Junior Achievement, Huntington County Leadership, Little Blessings Child Care Ministry and Altrusa International of Huntington County.
Denman has had no prior political experience.
She responded to the questions by saying, “Over the past 21 years, I have handled cases involving juvenile matters, children in need of services, divorces, probate, real estate, criminal matters and more. I am passionate about improving the court process, especially with juvenile and child in need of services cases. This passion has led me to serve on committees at the local and state level as well as to be selected by a national juvenile association to become one of 13 attorneys in Indiana to train other lawyers on juvenile laws. I also serve as a guardian ad litem for children and am a registered family law mediator. I want to take my passion to improve the circumstances for our youth and families and use it for the benefit of our county by serving as our next judge. It is my goal to help change the path that our youth are on so that we can keep them out of our adult criminal system and break the cycle of drug addiction and criminal behavior.
“If elected, there are several changes I would make. One would be to implement a family court program. We have families involved in juvenile delinquency, parental neglect and custody cases all at the same time. The program would coordinate all cases involving a family so the right services are provided and conflicting orders are avoided.
“Having worked on criminal cases and DCS cases for years, I’ve seen the impact that drugs and mental illness have on the family and our community. Addressing these issues will be a priority. While providing services to those involved in the court system, we also need to ensure we maintain the appropriate levels of supervision for those who have committed crimes, whether it be incarceration, probation, deferred sentencing or community corrections. For those leaving the prison system after serving a period of incarceration, I want a re-entry program through Community Corrections so there is assistance with obtaining employment, enrolling in counseling programs and maintaining a crime-free lifestyle.
“Finally, I would like to see Huntington join the Public Defender Commission. This program would save our county tens of thousands of dollars every year.”
Jamie M. Groves
Groves, 49, lists his address as 201 N. Jefferson St., Room 301, Huntington. He is currently employed as the sitting judge of the Huntington County Circuit Court. Prior to that he served 20 years as a prosecutor with the Huntington County Prosecutor’s Office, with 11 of those years as the chief deputy prosecutor and his primary caseload in the Huntington Circuit Court.
He obtained a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice in 1990 from Indiana University, Bloomington. He earned his Juris Doctorate (law) degree from Indiana University, Indianapolis in 1997.
He also served as a certified legal intern for the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office, from 1995 to 1997; a probation officer in Porter County from 1992 to 1994, and a detention officer in Porter County from 1994 to 1995.
Groves’ memberships include the Indiana Judges Association, Huntington County Bar Association (past president for two years), Huntington Optimist Club (past president), Pathfinder Services (past board member), United Way (served on the board for two terms plus volunteered on the Resource Deployment Subcommittee for four years and Community Leadership and Development for two years), L.A.C.E. (Local Anti-drug Coalition Effort), Huntington Boys & Girls Club, Indiana Juvenile Justice Commission, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 77 and is a member of St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic Church.
His political experience includes his incumbency as circuit court judge; however, he has not run for political office previously.
Groves responded to the
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 questions by saying, “In my years as a prosecutor and probation officer, I never just sat behind a desk, but went out into the homes of the community to see the problems there. I promise that I am already thoughtfully applying that experience to the cases that are coming before me every day as your judge. In the short time that I have been your circuit court judge, I have already begun improving the Circuit Court.
“First, I am bringing the benefits of two problem solving courts to Huntington County, a new Family Dependency Treatment Court and an established Veteran’s Court.
“Family Dependency Treatment Court will be built from the ground up to serve the families in CHINS (Child in Need of Services) cases. This program, which I intend to call Family Recovery Court, will save lives and families. Family Recovery Court will utilize intensive court and case management supervision to help opioid addicted parents who are failing to break their cycle of addiction. It will be made up of an advisory team of pre-existing local community partners, many of whom have already agreed to serve. I have seen these courts succeed in other counties and we are overdue for one here.
“As to a Veteran’s Court, I have drafted a contract between our courts and Whitley County. This contract will allow criminal cases involving servicemen and women, both past and present, to utilize Whitley County’s existing Veteran’s Court. Veterans struggling with addiction will quickly get in front of a judge who is also a military officer capable of speaking their language and understanding their service.
“Second, I will improve the services of the juvenile court. I have worked in the Huntington Juvenile Court for 20 years, so I know the available services and needs of the kids. This experience allows me to tailor known resources to the juveniles, order needed services for their families and reduce county crime by directing kids’ futures away from the adult court.
“I will also hold accountable those who victimize the most vulnerable of our population. This includes those found guilty of having sexually or physically abused children or adults within our community.
“I love this job and have from the first day I began doing it. I can only promise to continue to put the same long hours and hard work I did as a prosecutor into serving you as your judge.”
Davin G. Smith
Smith, 40, lists his address as 301 Warren St., Huntington. He is an attorney and partner at Bowers, Brewer, Garrett & Wiley, LLP.
Smith graduated from Huntington North High School in 1995 and attended Cincinnati Christian University for one year. He earned a Bachelor of Science from the Kelly School of Business at Indiana University-Bloomington in 2000, and his Juris Doctor from Indiana University School of Law-Indianapolis in 2013. He has also participated in civil mediation training, domestic mediation training and defense counsel training for children in need of services cases, guardian ad litem cases and problem solving courts.
His memberships include Huntington County Drug Court Team, Markle Church of Christ, Christian Legal Society, Huntington County Bar Association, vice president of Quayle Vice Presidential Learning Center, vice president of New Life Ministries, ambassador of Huntington County Chamber of Commerce, The Heritage Foundation and former member of Huntington County Historical Society Board of Directors.
Additional community service includes Huntington County Teen Court; youth coach at YMCA, Roanoke Youth Sports and Fort Wayne Sports Club; and former volunteer with Markle Church of Christ Student Ministry.
Smith has no prior political experience.
He responded to the questions by saying, “After much thought and prayer, my wife and I decided that running for Judge would be the best way to continue serving Huntington. Growing up on the farm, I learned about hard work, sacrifice and faith from my parents, Marvin and Nancy Smith. They instilled in me the values and principles that have guided me throughout my life. Practicing law in Huntington County has helped me develop important relationships and given me experience in all types of cases that are decided in Circuit Court.
“Serving in my church student ministry, coaching youth sports, and volunteering as Judge for Huntington County Teen Court have helped me connect with our youth. My community service on boards for the Quayle Vice-Presidential Learning Center, New Life Ministries (women’s shelter and soup kitchen) and the Huntington County Historical Society have given me opportunities to learn, lead and serve. I believe that you can only lead by serving and bringing a servant’s heart to your position, especially in government.
“I have a number of goals I hope to accomplish that will help our community financially while also helping our citizens. I have been involved in Huntington County’s Drug Court since its inception, and I anticipate a continued partnership with Superior Court Judge Newton to expand our problem-solving courts in Huntington County. These problem-solving courts allow participants to have increased supervision and structure while pursuing treatment, and should be expanded to include Family Court, Veterans Court and Re-Entry Court.
“Similarly, I will work to expand Community Corrections and work-release programs in efforts to reduce recidivism. I have also partnered with the Indiana Public Defender Commission, creating a plan to save Huntington County nearly $45,000 per year in expenses for legal representation of the poor. Implementing and expanding these programs will allow Huntington County to invest in rehabilitation and treatment while pursuing current best practices. I am confident that we will eliminate wasteful spending from the office and find innovative ways to save taxpayer dollars. I also commit to upholding our Constitution and adhering to the values of Huntington County with an emphasis on putting our people first.”
Justin R. Wall
Wall lists his address as 311 N. Jefferson St., Huntington. He is an attorney and owner of Wall Legal Services and is also a realtor and auctioneer with Ness Brothers.
He graduated from Huntington North High School with an Indiana Academic Honors Diploma in 1995. He obtained a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from Purdue University in 2002, an MBA from Indiana University in 2003 and a Juris Doctorate with concentration in intellectual property from the University of Toledo College of Law in 2008. He also graduated from the Huntington Leadership Academy in 2000 and the Troyer School of Real Estate in 2017 and the Reppert Auction School in 2017.
Wall’s community organizations include Master Mason-third degree, past “big” with Big Brothers Big Sisters, past president of the Huntington Exchange Club, past board member of Cancer Services of Huntington, past board member of Huntington County Habitat for Humanity, past assistant scoutmaster of Troop 637 and Wood Badge Graduate-Owl Patrol.
His professional organizations include Huntington County Bar, Whitley County Bar, Wells County Bar, Allen County Bar and Indiana State Bar associations.
Wall has no prior political experience, but did run for Huntington Superior Court judge in the 2014 Republican primary election.
He responded to the questions by saying, “I am running for this office as I believe that I am the best candidate for this position. I have practiced in just about every county in northern Indiana and have seen first-hand what the ‘best practices’ are in these communities. I fully believe that is not necessary to re-invent the wheel, but to incorporate these best practices here in our community.
“As a solo practice attorney, I am experienced in a wide range of legal cases – the exact same type of cases that come before the Circuit Court on a daily basis. The judge for this position must have more than just 20 percent experience in only one particular area of law that comes before the court.
“Over my many years of practice, I have helped thousands of clients with their legal needs. Additionally, being judge involves a lot more than just being able to handle legal matters. It requires a person with experience in people management and budget management. This person also has to be very good at securing funds to be able to pay for programming that is trying to be started. As a trained grant writer, I have the ability to secure funding necessary to implement my ideas, which are many.
“Also, based upon my past volunteer experience with various service groups, I have garnered extensive experience in implementing programs and funding them. I also have extensive experience in managing employees and creating and holding to budgets.
“Among the ideas that I want to implement if I am elected judge include starting a Family Problem Solving Court. I also want to better our legal library and resources for indigent clients. I want to start a modest means mediation program. I want to start a work release center such as that in Warsaw. With my legal background, work background, people, budget and leadership experience, I can get the job done in an effective and efficient manner.
“I am from here, grew up here and am heavily invested in the long-term success of this community. Find me on Facebook and online.”