By Scott Cooke, Cooke Family Law
It is sometimes said that that a good lawyer knows the law, but a great lawyer knows the judge. And while it may be meant as a joke, knowing your audience (and the court) can be helpful in your practice. Feeling comfortable in court can help you provide better advocacy for your client and getting to know your local judges can help improve your practice. This year, we are providing our section members with information about judicial officers that we hope will both encourage positive bench/bar relationships and help us all serve our clients better. This is the fourth installment in the Solo/Small Firm Practice Section's "Getting to Know Your Judicial Officers" series.
Magistrate Jason G. Reyome currently serves as master commissioner of Title IV-D Court at Marion Superior Court. Prior to his current role, he was in private practice for 10 years. Get to know more about him from our Q+A below!
Q: What do you look forward to most about the upcoming year in Title IV-D Court?
A: Two things:
1) Immediately, I am most excited about finishing our move and settling into IV-D’s new physical location. I look forward to making it our “work home”. As I answer this question, my staff and I are in the middle of moving and I am at my desk, in a nearly vacant office, eating lunch with just my computer.
We are moving from G-6 across the hall to the former Center Township Small Claims Court (Room G-5 in the basement of the City-County Building). Any move is challenging and we are moving into a slightly smaller space, which presents a perfect opportunity to minimize and reorganize. That said, the IV-D staff have all maintained positive morale and attitudes throughout the entire process and it has made the move MUCH easier. We are also blessed to have a good Court Administration team led by Emily Van Osdol. Everyone has worked hard to make the move as easy and efficient as possible.
2) Long-term, I would have to say I am most excited about the launch of the comparative effectiveness study of online parent education programs for the parents in our Title IV-D paternity cases. This is an academic-judicial collaboration for research to compare three online parent-education programs using a randomized, controlled trial research methodology. Using this methodology should help determine which program is most effective for which families. After the program is piloted in IV-D, we hope that the research team can conduct a similar study for divorcing families as results may differ based on family structure. Our ultimate goal is to facilitate the implementation of evidence-based family law programs into the Marion County Family Law Court system.
I am excited to continue the academic-judicial collaboration with IU Maurer School of Law Professor Amy G. Applegate (Clinical Professor of Law, Ralph F. Fuchs Faculty Fellow, and Director, Viola J. Taliaferro Family and Children Mediation Clinic), IU Bloomington Professors Amy Holtzworth-Munroe (Director of Graduate Studies, Director of Brain and Psychological Studies) and Brian D'Onofrio (Director of Clinical Training), Doctoral Candidate and National Science Foundation Fellow Britany Rudd, and Doctoral Student Ani Poladian.
We have also been blessed to be supplied with law student research interns from Professor Carrie Hagan’s Civil Practice Clinic at IU McKinney School of Law. My current research intern, Jennifer Waldrip, just gave birth to a beautiful baby boy six weeks ago. She has gone above and beyond to ensure that the research project has stayed on track.
We especially appreciate the help and support from the Supreme Court Family Court Project Grant, my supervising judges: Hon. Cynthia Ayers and Hon. Heather Welch, and Circuit Court Judge Hon. Sheryl Lynch.
I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to work on this project and to be surrounded by such caring, hardworking and intelligent people. The whole team is passionately committed to improving family law outcomes in Indiana.
Q: Any new changes that you are implementing that might be helpful for attorneys to know about?
A: The physical location of Title IV-D court will change effective May 26, 2015. As I mentioned earlier, we are moving to the old Center Township Small Claims Court Space room G-5 in the basement of the City-County Building.
Q: Is there anything that you want practitioners to know about how you run your Court?
A: We try our best to be as user-friendly and efficient as possible, not only to lawyers, but to unrepresented litigants as well. If you are running late, call us. If you have other hearings scheduled, we will work with your schedule as best we can. I was in private practice for 10 years and understand how busy it can get, but you should communicate with court staff and opposing parties. We always try to be accommodating and respectful of everyone’s busy schedule.
As far as motions go, we have a court mailbox for the State’s IV-D Attorneys. However, please follow the rules and serve the other party or the other party’s attorney if they are represented.
Q: How, if at all, do you think that your experience as a solo/small firm private practice attorney has helped prepare you for your position? How do you think that experience shapes how you approach your cases and running your court?
A: Owning and operating a small (2-3 attorneys) firm for 10 years with my former law partner Anastasia Demos has had a tremendous impact on how I administer Title IV-D. Our firm focused on representing middle- and lower-income clients which is a common demographic that most IV-D litigants share.
Accordingly, my staff and I try to be as efficient as possible. We are paid to be in court, litigants are not. We understand when litigants come to court that they miss work (often unpaid leave), and have to pay for parking, daycare and sometimes lawyers. Many of the IV-D litigants are at or near the poverty level. The financial hardship of attending court has the potential to have a much greater impact on middle- and lower-income litigants than it does more affluent litigants. Consequently, I do not grant unnecessary continuances in order to keep cases moving.
Q: What was the last book you read?
A: The book I started last night was The New Big Book of U.S Presidents: Fascinating Facts about Each and Every President, Including an American History Timeline by Todd Davis to my 6-year-old son. It was his choice, not mine. It surprised me because he usually wants to read about Minecraft. If you don't have younger kids, you likely won't know about Minecraft and you should consider it a blessing.
Most of my personal reading time is spent reviewing and supervising research-related activities. Consequently, I don’t get much quiet time to read to myself for pleasure.
Q: Last movie? Thumbs up or thumbs down?
A: Last Movie: When the Game Stands Tall…Thumbs up!
It’s based on the true story of legendary football coach Bob Ladouceur, who led the De La Salle High School Spartans to a 151-game winning streak that shattered all records for football win streaks. Lots of life lessons in the story. He was a great coach, but along the way sacrificed time as a father and a husband. It reminded me how important it is to keep a good work/life balance.
Although my wife is not a big fan of football, she also liked it. Coach “Lad” viewed football as a way to prepare young men to be dependable adults. One of his mantras (paraphrased) was that you cannot expect to be perfect, but you should always demand from yourself a perfect effort. I like that message and think there are times we all need to be reminded of it. If you like football, it’s a must see.
Q: On a Saturday afternoon you would likely be found _____________?
A: Depends on time of year…during fall/winter, likely found at home with my boys watching college football, doing general housekeeping, followed by ensuring dinner is ready when my wife gets home from work.
During the spring/summer, I’m likely found at the baseball field coaching Little League, then to chess club for the 6 year old (with the baby in tow), back home to put baby down for afternoon nap, chores, and then ensure dinner is ready when my wife gets home from work.
***It would be unfair if I didn’t disclose that my wife cooks during the week.
This post was written by Scott Cooke of Cooke Family Law. If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Solo/Small Firm Practice Section page, please email Rachel Beachy at email@example.com.