"I've always been interested in public service, and I've been in the prosecutor's office for 29 years, so I guess I'd just like to be on the other side of the bench and see what that would be like," Charles C. Wicks
said of his
primary reason for seeking the position."There are a lot of things I would like to do in the criminal justice system to try and straighten people out.And like I said, I've been arguing in the state's position for many years, and I'd like to be the one having the decision-making authority."Wicks sought a judge's position in both the 1998 and 2000 primary elections in addition to serving the past six years as chairman of the Republican Party in Elkhart County.
This year, however, Wicks
has a little more name recognition than he
did when attempting his
previous two election runs.
"I was actually not planning on running, because I thought Judge (James) Rieckhoff was running for re-election.But then he
called me in October and said he
was going to retire at the end of this term," Wicks
said."That was the end of October, so on Nov. 7 I resigned my position as chairman of the Republican Party
to seek the court position."
When asked what qualities he
feels are good for a judicial candidate to possess, Wicks
said the right temperament coupled with experience can make all the difference."Well, I think obviously the right temperament is important, and I think I've developed that in 29 years being a prosecutor," Wicks said.
"I've found that if you treat people like human beings, rather than a case or number, that many times they'll respond to you and what you're trying to do, and listen to you."Wicks
qualifications down into three categories: Criminal law experience, civil experience and community involvement.
"The first reason would be my criminal law experience.Superior Court 5 is one of the busiest criminal courts in the county handling 1,600 to 2,000 criminal cases a year.I believe my 29 years of experience being a prosecutor qualifies me to be judge of the court," Wicks said.
"As I've said, I've had experience with all kinds of felony cases - attempted murder, armed robbery, burglary, rape, child molesting, forgery, drugs.I was also a Juvenile Court prosecutor for one summer."Wicks
also had the first environmental prosecution in Indiana, where a business was stopped from dumping cancer-causing chemicals, and handled a securities fraud case that resulted in a guilty plea on the day of trial.
Next on his
list of qualifications is what Wicks considers the civil experience he
has gained from practicing law for the past 37 years.
"I spent four years in the Air Force.I was staff judge advocate, where I was the chief legal adviser to the commander of the 23rd Air Division," Wicks
said."I supervised eight other attorneys … and I received the Air Force Commendation Medal when I left the Air Force."Wicks
also spent four years practicing in South Bend, where he
focused on personal injury, divorce and criminal defense work.
"I've been in Elkhart County since 1978, started my own law office in 1979 and I've been a sole practitioner since then, handling mainly personal injury litigation, divorce cases and some estates," Wicks
had a precedent-setting case that reversed Indiana law going back to 1854.The case was Eddy vs.McGinnis, which in 1988 overturned the precedent stating that if a drunk driver was subject to prosecution he
could not be sued civilly for punitive damages.
"That was overturned in a 3 to 2 decision by the Indiana Supreme Court
and established new precedent where now you can sue drunk drivers for punitive damages.That was probably the most significant case I've had in my career," Wicks
said.As for his community participation, Wicks is past president of the Elkhart County Estate Planning Councils and involved in St. James Epispocal Church, Goshen, where plans the programs and is in charge of worship and Christian education.Wicks spent six years on the American Red Cross board, has served with the Scottish Rite Fraternity as well as on the board of directors of the Pachyderm Club.Wicks
desire to see the judgeship become more accessible to people.
"I think it's important for a judge not just to live in an ivory tower, but to get out among the community and know what people are thinking," Wicks
said."Another thing I think I would like to see, although the present filing order does not allow it, is a provision for a small claims type of divorce in Elkhart County.
"The present filing order does not allow divorce cases to be filed in Superior Court 5, but they probably could be filed by agreement, and that's something I might want to explore.I know that people file divorce petitions without an attorney in all the courts, but the judges handle them differently."Wicks
sees many cases where there is not much property, there's no custody dispute, and people really don't have enough property to hire an attorney - all of which make a perfect situation for a small claims type of proceeding.
"That's one area I think the court could be improved maybe to find a vehicle somewhere in the county where we could handle these cases," Wicks