Since assuming Judge Randall Johnson's term in Grant Superior Court 2 more than two years ago, former prosecuting attorney Dana Kenworthy has made several changes to better the judicial system and save the county money.
didn't have much time to prepare for her
new role, she
didn't hesitate in getting the court caught up.
"(Johnson's) illness made it difficult for him to handle the things that needed to be done, so when (Kenworthy) came in there was a backlog," said Superior Court 3 Judge Warren Haas.
An Amboy native and graduate of Oak Hill High School
always loved Grant County
Attending college at Ball State University
in Muncie was her
first time in a big city.
"I felt like a very small fish in a big pond," she
double majored in criminal justice and psychology.
It wasn't until she began working in the Grant County Prosecutor's Office that she decided to attend law school.
She was an intern in the office while still a student at Ball State.
She joined the staff full-time in July 1994 as a criminal investigator and later began working as the community education coordinator.
She tried working in a big city as a paralegal with an Indianapolis law firm, but decided it wasn't the right fit.
There wasn't much interaction with other people, and the work she
was doing in civil cases wasn't appealing.
After working on three jury trials as an intern at the prosecutor's office, Kenworthy said she determined her niche was prosecuting cases.
"I felt like I had a knack with working with victims of crimes, especially little ones," she
In May 2001, she was hired as a deputy prosecutor in the Grant County office.
Most of her
cases involved juveniles, child abuse, sexual assault and domestic violence.
"All were very high-stress cases, and figuring out how to separate home and work was difficult," she
When asked to take the bench for Johnson, Kenworthy
said it felt right.
described the transition from prosecutor to judge as a "whirlwind.
had 17 trials in her
court that year.
This year there has only been about six trials in Superior 2 because the court has caught up.
said as of April 2010 the average age of new pending cases was almost one year and 11 months and as of April 2012 the average age is less than six months.
Now that there is no longer a backlog of criminal cases, Kenworthy
is focusing on the civil cases that haven't had any activity for a while and clearing them from the docket.
Earlier this year there were 85 juvenile cases with no activity for six months, 38 CHINS (child in need of services) cases without any activity for nine months, 472 divorce and domestic relations cases with no recent action and 601 juvenile delinquency cases with no activity for 180 days.
Currently all the cases have been cleared except for 87 delinquency cases and three divorces.
Haas said when Kenworthy
took office there were several cases that had been taken under advisement by Johnson.
While a lot has changed for Kenworthy
, one thing hasn't - she
is still an advocate for children.
love for children began in college when she
worked at a daycare center.
The kids were 3 to 5 years old, and when they got in trouble they were sent to her
originally took the job to help pay for college, she
said it was an eye-opening experience.
"I quickly started to bond with those troubled kids," she
In the past she served on several boards, including Court Appointed Special Advocates, Family Service Society and First Light Child Advocacy Center, to benefit children.
had to resign from those boards, as well as others, when she
Connie Rose, director of Family Service Society, said Kenworthy is still making a difference in the lives of children and families.
In addition to making positive changes to the court system, Haas said Kenworthy
has spearheaded other changes to save the county money, including creating a full-time juvenile magistrate and pursuing several grants.
As for grants, Haas said Kenworthy
was responsible for getting money to pay for remote arraignment, in which parents who are in prison can appear for hearings without physically being transported to Grant County
also made changes to the jury trial schedule in Superior 2 to save money.
Instead of jury trials starting on Monday afternoon like they had previously, they now start on Tuesday morning.
The change enabled the county to avoid paying jurors for only a partial day's service.
Jurors get the same set amount, as well as mileage, for serving a half day as they would a full day of service, she
Implementing a final pre-trial conference 15 days before a scheduled jury trial has helped determine if jurors actually need to be summoned.
This helps reduce postage cost, staff time and public inconvenience because jurors aren't called in just to be sent home if a last-minute plea agreement is reached.
has set cut-off dates for plea agreements to avoid last minute bargaining the morning of trials.
also implemented a fee for parents involved in CHINS cases.
A CASA fee of $100 is required in each case, and in June 2010 Kenworthy
began requiring parents who can afford it to pay the fee.
Since then, the cost for pauper counsel in the cases has declined because parents are helping cover the costs.
A heart for volunteering
Kenworthy currently serves on several boards at the state and local level - Judicial Conference of Indiana Board of Directors and the Juvenile Benchbook committee, Indiana State Bar Association Civil Rights of Children Committee and the Improvement in the Judiciary committee, Grant County Evidence-Based Decision-Making Committee, Marion-Grant County Chamber of Commerce, Department of Children's Services Regional Service Council for Region 7, Grant County Bar Association, Grant County Community Corrections Board, Marion Community Schools Friends of Marion High School Committee and Marion Mayor's Commission Against Domestic Violence.
learned at a young age the importance of giving back.
mother was a volunteer at a hospital gift shop, and the judge said almost every job she's
ever worked began with a connection she
made through volunteering.
In the future, Kenworthy
wants to continue improving the courts.
and Judge Jeff Todd are currently working to create domestic relations rules for parties to follow when going through a divorce to improve communication skills as they co-parent.
At the state level, she
hopes to get more involved in policy-making.
Areas of interest to her
are the Department of Child Services call center and tracking prescription drug use.
is waiting to hear whether the county will receive a grant to help pay for mediation and programs for families in litigation.
Seeking grants is important for the judicial system, and she
plans to continue pursuing more funding opportunities.
"Our budget is ever shrinking," she
"We try to do the very best we can."
feels good about the direction the courts are headed and said all four judges work well together and have regular meetings where they communicate.
"I feel optimistic," she