The Criminal Justice Section is starting the year off with an exciting new program! Criminal court judges will be hosting “Lunch with the Bench” events throughout 2020. Our first event is Feb. 12 and will be hosted by Hon. Jennifer Harrison of Criminal Division 20. In order to give you a little insight into who Judge Harrison is as a person and judge, IndyBar member Shaunestte Terrell sat down with her to ask her a few rapid-fire questions.
Please tell me a little about your educational and employment background leading up to your role as a judge.
I attended undergrad at Indiana University and moved to Indianapolis for law school at the now Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law. While in law school, I clerked at Cline Farrell Christie & Lee PC and did pro bono at the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. After graduation, I worked at the Marion County Public Defender Agency (MCPDA) where I practiced for eight and a hald years. In July 2017, I joined Lewis and Wilkins and practiced civil defense litigation.
When did you know you wanted to be a judge?
Relatively early on in my career at the MCPDA, I saw the impact that great judges can have on the criminal justice system. When you practice in front of a judge who is open to creative sentencing options with the hopes of reducing recidivism and treats every person in the courtroom with respect, the process just moves smoother. Additionally, judges have the responsibility of making sure the cases on their docket continue to move and most parties want to ensure their cases are being both litigated effectively and moving promptly.
What do you think are the most important qualities of a judge?
Ensuring that all people have access to justice and the courts is one of the most important qualities I firmly believe that if you allow all parties to feel heard, even if they don’t ultimately succeed on the merits, the “losing” party hopefully walks away at least feeling like they had a fair shake at it. Patience is also very key. Additionally, I think judges have the responsibility of ensuring that civility exists amongst the parties in the courtroom.
You are still relatively new to the bench; what has been the most surprising part of this role?
One of my favorite parts of my previous jobs was the co-workers I had I’ve been quite lucky in that every job I’ve left has been difficult to leave because of the people with whom I worked. I worried that being on the bench would seem lonely and I wouldn’t have that collegiality. However, the community of judges has proven that worry very false. Even when I’m on the bench, if I need some quick advice, I have never had a problem finding someone ready and willing to help. Plus, the judges in Marion County have helped navigate my transition to the bench and the duties that come with that. I have enjoyed getting to know the judges I practiced in front of in a different way and again find myself quite lucky to have the co-workers I do.
What would you like any attorneys who practice in your court to know?
Collegiality and professionalism are key in my court. Also, we are here to help make sure you can keep your cases moving. Always feel like you can reach out to the court staff with procedural questions or to me for any other issues. We are here to serve!
What do you like to do in your spare time? Do you actually have any of that?
When I do have free time (ha!), I spend it with my little men, Henry and Rory, and their dog-brother Jasper. I enjoy cooking, Orange Theory (when I can make it) and reading as well.
We look forward to getting to know Judge Harrison better on Feb. 12! You can register online here. See you there!
If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Criminal Justice Section, please email Kara Sikorski at firstname.lastname@example.org.