ANDERSON — Incumbent Democrat Judge George Pancol is running opposed in Madison County Circuit Court 2 for the first time, by Republican nominee Chief Deputy Prosecutor Stephen Koester. Pancol said this changes things only in that he has to actually campaign, but he is confident that what he has been able to do in the court will get him reelected.
Pancol started his career working for former Prosecutor William F. Lawler and by starting his own private practice that focused on criminal defense work. He also worked as a court commissioner for former Judge Thomas Newman and public defender before becoming Circuit 2 judge in 2009.
Pancol has worked to reimagine juvenile justice and has been part of a race, equity and inclusion pilot program for the county. If reelected, Pancol wishes to continue in these efforts and work to reduce juvenile detentions by being selective about who is detained.
“We need to detain the right child, for the right reason, for the right amount of time,” Pancol said. “When you start placing other children in detention that are not really necessary, that is very counterproductive, and you have much better outcomes if you can find alternatives for them.”
Koester became chief deputy prosecutor in 2015, and decided to run for judge in Circuit Court 2 because it deals with the children of the county. Protecting children has been a passion of Koester’s for the last decade, which is why he helped start Kids Talk.
Kids Talk is a local child advocacy center that acts as a safe space for children to talk about the abuse or neglect they are facing. This program brings many people together from law enforcement and the Department of Child Services so that the child only has to explain their abuse or neglect once.
Koester stands on a position of holding juveniles more accountable. He believes juveniles breaking the laws need consequences in order to get them on the right track as adults.
“What’s happening is for the last 10 years ... most of the people (in the county) that go to prison are between the ages of 18 and 25. So these are all people that have graduated from juvenile court and continued that type of behavior, and then in adult court they get sent to prison,” Koester said. “So I think if we hold them accountable in juvenile court, plus give them skills necessary to get good jobs, start a career, then that can deter them from continuing that behavior and becoming criminals as adults.”
Circuit Court 4
Rosemary Khoury (D) and David Happe (R)Since 2009, the Circuit Court 4 judge position has been held by Republican nominee David Happe. It had been a lifelong goal of Happe’s to run for a judge position because of the freedom to consider all positions.
“When you represent a client, you have to do what the client wants you to do. And when you’re the judge, you’re free to do what you think the right thing is,” Happe said. “That’s really liberating that you’re not locked into one position. You can consider all the positions and go where you think justice lies.”
Democratic Party nominee Rosemary Khoury is running against Happe after serving for 11 years as a deputy prosecutor with Madison County. Previously, she worked as a deputy attorney general with the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, and since becoming a deputy prosecutor has worked with murders, child molestation, burglaries and misdemeanors.
Currently, she is serving as a special prosecutor in the fatal police shooting of 21-year-old Dreasjon “Sean” Reed in May in Indianapolis. She said her involvement in the case is beneficial to her legal experience, but that the name recognition she is receiving from it is a double-edged sword.
“You can’t please all the people all the time, but my goal from day one has been to simply make sure that this case is handled with impartiality, thoroughly investigated and let the evidence guide me,” Khoury said. “There are going to be a group of people who are happy about the outcome, there’s going to be a group of people who aren’t.”
If reelected, Happe said he would continue to be a community problem solver, specifically with housing insecurity, evictions, addiction and jail crowding.
“A judge should be a community problem solver, and they shouldn’t just sit behind the bench and rule on things that come to them when they know that there are problems in the community. They should try to come up with approaches to help,” Happe said.
Through helping homeowners avoid foreclosure by setting up conversations with them and the banks, working to reform the county bail system and working to introduce Vivitrol as a drug and opiate addiction treatment, Happe hopes voters see his progress and allow him to continue that work.
If elected, Khoury hopes to focus on mental health issues that are present in the court system, the drug and opioid crisis in the county and systemic injustice.
“I will be civil, I will be open-minded, and I will be fair, firm and understanding,” Khoury said. “I will utilize the facts and my common sense to administer justice according to law.”
Circuit Court 5 Kyle Noone (D) and Scott Norrick (R)
With the announcement of incumbent Judge Thomas Clem’s retirement, Republican nominee Scott Norrick and Democratic nominee Kyle Noone both felt called to run for his seat. After an unsuccessful bid for Circuit Court 3 in 2018, Norrick was sure he would never run again, but Clem’s retirement seemed like perfect timing for him to try again in Circuit Court 5.
“I want to make a difference here in Madison County. I’m not here to make a point, I want to make a difference,” Norrick said. “I feel that with my experience and my perspective that I am the person to be able to do that.”
Norrick’s experience in Madison County politics goes back to when he was a teen working for then-Judge Newman through a high school co-op program.
While attending Anderson University, he worked with data entry for former Prosecutor Lawler, and soon got a job as a Madison County probation officer. Since then he has worked as chief probation officer in Elwood and has been a judge in Edgewood’s town court since 2007 for the Republican Party.
Noone has been a judge with Elwood city court since 2004. It was a tough decision to leave Elwood, he said, but he ultimately felt called to run for Clem’s spot because of the mentorship the former judge gave him.
As a judge in Elwood, Noone started the Lifeworks program to help reduce recidivism. This program attempts to prevent people from reoffending by giving them life skills such as teaching them how to apply for jobs, build a resume and balance a checkbook.
If elected, Norrick hopes to expand problem solving courts, reduce the backlog of cases and increase community service. Norrick believes his experiences with having cases in the Indiana Supreme Court, Indiana Court of Appeals and United States District Court, his dedication to the Constitution and his rejection to playing politics at the bench sets him apart from Noone.
“I’m not here to make a point. I’m here to make a difference in Madison County, one individual at a time,” Norrick said. “I stand for justice, no matter who you are. We are one race, and that’s the human race.”
If elected, Noone hopes to push court transparency by broadcasting hearings on YouTube and Facebook, improve veterans court and reduce the court docket. Noone feels what sets him apart from his opponent is his dedication to his community and being among his voters.
“Something that’s always been dear to my heart is that the public has the trust of the judiciary and the justice system itself,” Noone said. “I’ve always been a judge that’s always kept one foot on the street. I’ve always walked amongst my voters rather than in front or above my voters.”