ANDERSON — Incumbent Madison Circuit Court Division 4 Judge David Happe announced Monday he will not accept donations during his campaign for re-election.
Happe was appointed in 2009 by former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to complete the term of David Hopper, who died of a heart attack in February 2009.
He was one of 15 people who applied to fill the vacancy in Circuit Court Division 4 and was one of six candidates interviewed.
Happe ran unopposed in both the Primary and General elections in 2014.
He is opposed this year by Democrat Rosemary Khoury, who is serving as a deputy in the Madison County prosecutor’s office.
Happe, a Republican, said in a press release that he is using the re-election campaign to address an important issue in campaign finance reform: defending the independence of judges.
“Being a judge is different from other offices because we have an ethical duty of impartiality,” Happe said. “That is in direct conflict with the practice of accepting campaign donations from attorneys and litigants, whatever the amount. I promise those who enter my courtroom that since I’ve been there I have not — nor will ever — accept campaign money.”
Happe noted that existing law does require a judge to recuse from a case if someone has made a contribution so big that the judge’s impartiality could be questioned because of it. He added there is no clear standard about how large a contribution that is, leaving it up to individual judges to decide whether to stay on a case.
“The rules allow lawyers and litigants to contribute to a judge’s campaign,” Happe said. “But how would you feel as a party to a case if you knew the other side had donated to the judge’s campaign and you hadn’t? It’s legal, but it doesn’t feel right to me.”
Happe said Khoury entering the race gives him a chance to highlight his record.
Happe’s 23-year career as an attorney has included more than 100 jury trials as a judge, prosecutor and defense attorney.
Happe has also volunteered over the course of his career to ensure marginalized populations have legal representation, including writing living wills for residents of the Damien Center, representing indigent clients in civil cases, and representing the Madison County United Way during mediation.
Since his appointment as judge, Happe led reforms for Madison County citizens struggling with foreclosure, addiction and incarceration.
Happe worked with the State of Indiana to pilot a program in Madison County connecting homeowners facing foreclosure with lenders and professional facilitators.
Working with the sheriff and a team of criminal justice professionals and health providers, Happe led the effort to bring innovative opiate treatment to addicted persons in Madison County.
Happe chaired the working group that rebuilt Madison County’s bail system from the ground up. He said the new bail system has allowed the county to move away from a system that focused almost solely on how much money you could pay, to a system that focuses on risks to public safety and ensuring that people released from jail show up for trial.
Happe lives in Pendleton with his wife of 20 years Keri McGrath-Happe and elementary-aged sons Oscar and Roman.
He serves on the boards of the United Way of Madison County where he was named Volunteer of the Year in 2017, and on the Anderson Symphony Orchestra board. In 2011, he was awarded the Boy Scout’s “Great Expectations” distinction for his charity work.