By Tyler D. Helmond, Voyles Zahn & Paul PA
He is a graduate of Indiana University Bloomington and the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. He was a staff attorney at the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, a chief counsel at the Indiana Attorney General’s office, a chief trial counsel at the Marion County Public Defender Agency, and a private practitioner before taking the bench as a master commissioner in Marion Circuit Court. He is Mark Jones, and he has been served with interrogatories.
What are your most favorite and least favorite aspects of being a trial court judge?
Most favorite is getting to see some incredibly good advocacy by various members of our bar, especially when it is done in the context of—yes, I’ll use the word—“civility.” It’s fun and an honor to be a part of a case in which well-prepared lawyers can “go at it” without getting personal with one another, who can vehemently disagree with each other but at the same time respect the other’s well-thought-out and presented positions. A close second would be the law geek in me getting to drill down into some issue I’ve dealt with either none at all or very little in the past.
My least favorite is, probably, the opposite of the first: hearing a case with a lawyer who hasn’t prepared the case or hasn’t kept up with changes in the law. I understand well that a lawyer is frequently “stuck” with the facts his or her client may have created, but it is very frustrating — and frankly sometimes embarrassing — when there’s an apparent lack of effort to familiarize oneself with one’s own facts or the law, or both (and I’m not talking about the situation where someone is arguing for their reasonable interpretation of the law or for a change in the law).
Your duties include presiding over civil driver’s license litigation and requests for name changes. There seems to be a high rate of pro se representation in those areas. What is most challenging about handling cases with pro se litigants?
I don’t know if it’s the most challenging, but at least one of the biggest challenges is ensuring the pro se litigants’ rights and access to the courts and justice without becoming their advocate. The trial rules and policies of the courts require that litigants file and present their own pleadings, motions and proposed orders, which are sometimes counterbalanced by the system’s needs to move and dispose of cases in order to make room for the next cases for the next litigants to be heard. The pro se litigant’s case frequently takes more time, whether it’s necessary for me to later prepare the final orders or, during a hearing, taking the time to advise the litigant what’s necessary for the case to get to the next step in order for him or her to be heard, without giving him or her legal advice and without me inserting myself as an advocate for one side or the other.
The NCAA made a commercial several years ago that included a robed judge playing basketball. Who would be your number one draft pick from the Marion Superior Court bench?
I have no idea. Maybe Judge Shaheed for his height, Judge Rosenberg for his ability to “box-out.”
What has been the most satisfying moment of your legal career?
Throwing Jim Voyles off track while he was questioning a witness during a deposition by slowly opening a Hershey’s kiss across the table from him. Kidding aside, it’s hard to pinpoint one moment given the fact I’ve been blessed to practice for so long in so many different capacities. Knowing that I’ve given something my best shot, whether it’s as a litigator or a judicial officer and whether I win or lose (or get reversed), I generally feel good about it (I still really liked to win as a litigator …) .
Hypothetically, you’re wrongfully convicted of a crime and you serve 10 years in prison. You are released in downtown Indianapolis at 5:30 p.m. Where are you going for dinner?
Depends upon how much money was in my commissary fund and whether I’d received a settlement yet… Grecian Garden versus St. Elmo’s.
What is your favorite flavor of Sun King?
Osiris Pale Ale, though admittedly I’m not familiar with all that Sun King has to offer.
Are you a Mac or are you a PC?
Mac at home, PC at work.
What book is currently on your night stand?
“Humongous Zits, a Zits Treasury” by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman (a must read by any parent of a teenager or teenagers, especially a son); “A Wanted Man” by Lee Child; and “Flat Belly Diet! For Men,” by Liz Vaccariello and D. Milton Stokes (obviously haven’t opened the last book recently).