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Allen County Superior Court judges seek re-election

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 - 5:29 am

Experience, dedication and the desire to continue to serve.

Citing those tenets on Tuesday, four judges in Allen Superior Court -- two in the Criminal Division, two in the Civil Division -- announced they would seek to retain their positions on the bench in May's election.

Judges Frances Gull and John F. Surbeck Jr. of the Criminal Division and Stanley Levine of the Civil Division have each served at least two six-year terms on the bench, while Craig Bobay, was a magistrate for 16 years before being named to the bench in the Civil Division by Gov. Mike Pence in 2013.

Judicial races are a little different in the political process, because they are non-partisan and have a capped spending limit of $10,000 for each campaign. The participants also have ethical standards that dictate how much they might say about other candidates who might compete against them.

Instead, with so much time on the bench, the four judges have a litany of programs they have created or guided, as well as accomplishments they have earned, to point toward as to why they believe voters in Allen County should feel comfortable with their remaining on the bench.

For example:

Bobay is the supervising judge of the Small Claims Division, while Gull is the presiding judge of the Allen County Drug Court and co-founder with Judge Thomas Felts of Allen Circuit Court of the Veterans Court.

Gull also is a former chief deputy prosecutor for the Allen County Prosecutor's Office's Criminal Division. She has been on the bench since 1997 and has been re-elected twice.

Surbeck, who has been on the bench since 1988 and has been re-elected three times, served for 16 years as deputy public defender and is the presiding judge of the Allen County Re-Entry Court, which attempts to ease individuals back into society after incarceration.

Levine has been on the bench since 1999 and has been re-elected twice. He rose to the rank of captain in the Indiana Air National Guard and is a past president of the Allen County Bar Association.

Most importantly, from the judges' perspective: Each still has a passion to serve and, in the case of the Criminal Division judges, feel they work well as a team with Judge Wendy Davis and others who help to comprise the judicial branch in Allen County.

"They've been a really neat team to work with, between Fran and Wendy and our magistrates, and then all of our program people, there's an ever-widening circle of a team," Surbeck said.

The specific programming the judges are heavily involved with also benefit from the continuity of having long-serving judges, as Gull explained.

"I mean, the beauty and the success of problem-solving courts...drafts directly on the shoulders of the judge. So to have the continuous judicial oversight and intervention, I believe, is critical," Gull said.