Katrina S. Mann has served Posey County for forty years. She has worked in the County Assessor’s office, the Prosecuting Attorney’s office, County Court and Circuit Court. She has been a bailiff, probation officer, transcriptionist and court reporter.
Katrina has experience in every aspect of all court reporting functions. Currently she is the resident expert in criminal proceedings, guardianships and probate (estate) matters. Litigants and even attorneys rely upon Katrina for help with complicated questions that ofttimes nobody else seems to know how to answer. Judges also sometimes look to Katrina for help in dealing with the briar patch of arcane legal jargon and convoluted regulations. I know one judge quite well who turns to her frequently and has for forty years.
Katrina grew up in West Franklin in what once was rural Posey County. Society has unrelentingly encroached upon Katrina’s bucolic bliss. Today the once small settlement of West Franklin looks more like the west side of Evansville. Regardless, Katrina and her family continue to enjoy the home they have had since before the power plant started operations.
It is not possible to overstate the critical role Katrina has played in the Posey Circuit Court during my service on the Bench. She is a person of absolute integrity, reliability, discretion and sound judgment. She has always put the needs of the Court and the people we serve above her own. This has been good for the public but sometimes not for Katrina.
Katrina is a graduate of Mt. Vernon High School and has attended the University of Southern Indiana. Through hard work on her own time she has acquired numerous skills in the use of modern court technology such as Sten-O-Cat Court Reporting that is required in Indiana for death penalty cases.
Katrina is quiet, patient and friendly. Should one need help with a criminal, or probate or guardianship matter they should first consult their lawyer. However, if you want to know where the Judge goes for help, check with Katrina.
Kristie Hoffman claims to have worked for the Posey Circuit Court and me for thirty years. She says she started in June 1986 as a Bailiff and transcriptionist then matriculated through most of the court reporter positions. Today, if one needs help with civil suits, adoptions, mental health cases or juvenile delinquency matters, they should call for Kristie. As for me, I find it hard to accept Kristie has accumulated thirty years of knowledge and expertise in numerous court matters when she herself has not gotten a year older. It is only when I compare my photographs from 1986 to my image in the mirror that I am able to accept that Kristie did not just arrive from St. Philip, Indiana not knowing where the courthouse was.
Of course, the fact that she and Andy have been married for twenty-eight years (I went to their wedding) and have two adult sons does militate in favor of the falling sands of time. Although Andy also looks like he just graduated from high school. Perhaps Kristie should pay Posey County for the privilege of working in a position which apparently affects her as would have Ponce de Leon’s frantically sought after Fountain of Youth. I have noticed however she and Andy tend to look more like normally aging people when Notre Dame loses.
Ah, well, the rest of us can take consolation from the knowledge that Kristie will never experience the joys of aging. Is not there much to be said for the character building vicissitudes of changing visages and aching limbs? Okay, I guess not. Still, what will Kristie do if she ever does get old? The shock may be too much for her. As the rest of us gradually become habituated to the inevitable we can take solace that the Kristies of the world may go to sleep some day and awake eight hours later with some stranger living in their skin. On the other hand so may we, it will just be a much older looking stranger.
Okay, enough grousing about the unfairness of it all. What else does the public need to know about Kristie? One important distinction between Kristie and the rest of the court staff is she gets to work at 7:00 a.m. Therefore, if you need to contact the court before normal hours you can call 812-838-1302 and select option 3. Kristie will answer and efficiently direct you to the proper department of the legal system to address your questions. Of course, the court staff is prohibited by Indiana law from giving legal advice. However, Kristie and her three fellow court reporters are quite knowledgeable and helpful when general legal system guidance is needed.
All four Posey Circuit Court court reporters work at the north end of the second floor of the courthouse. Their doors are always open to the public. Sometimes they are involved in matters the law requires be kept confidential. In those cases the public is excluded. Otherwise feel free to call or drop by. The courts are always “open pursuant to adjournment” as the Indiana Constitution requires.
Dad would give my brother Philip and me 25¢ each on Saturday morning. This was money well invested. It got us out of the house so Mom and our older sister Janie and brother Sonny could clean it. Plus, for only 50¢ Mom and Dad could concentrate on chores we kids were not trusted with, such things as paying the weekly bills and preparing for Sunday’s church related duties.
Phil and I would walk the two miles to the picture show which opened at 9:30 am. 10¢ of our quarter would purchase a black and white double feature of black hat/white hat cowboy movies that started with a serial starring Rocket Man or some wobbly paper mache dinosaurs.
Popcorn was 5¢, a pop was 5¢ and a candy bar one could actually make breakfast of was 5¢. The floor was cement and sticky. There was only one exit. And the sounds from 50 screaming kids made the bare brick walls quiver.
You might think because I grew up on the Osage Indian Reservation my friends and I would root for the Indians. Nope, you see while many of the kids were Indians many of them also lived on cattle ranches. Everybody cheered for Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, Lash LaRue, Jimmy Wakely and especially the Durango Kid.
Although we kids on the main floor did not see or mix with the Colored kids in the balcony, we could occasionally hear an approving murmur from above when an Indian won a skirmish. We paid no attention.
Life was good on Saturday mornings in Pawhuska, Oklahoma for my brother and me in the 1950’s. Movies for a quarter assuaged all worries, even shoe soles that stuck to the floor.
I recalled those halcyon days last weekend when Peg and I went to a movie in Evansville, Indiana. Although I truly am a romantic guy I had not taken Peg to the theatre since Rocky lost to Apollo Creed. We were both amazed at the changes.
Peg had ordered our tickets online so I could not find some (any) reason to be somewhere (anywhere) else. Can you believe people do not even use the monetary system that has served us well since the Phoenicians were trading around the Mediterranean? Peg did not tell me what the tickets cost before we went and I assumed it was an act of wifely love when Peg said she’d get the popcorn and Cokes. She told me to find which of the ten or so screens our movie was playing on.
When Peg came up with our refreshments we entered our venue and found a carpeted floor with woven directions to our row and assigned seats. We sat down on and were enveloped in deep, plush recliners with electric controls. Some other customers were already reclining so far back their only view was their toes. I heard a couple of people snoring.
The movie was of the action genre. In fact, the plot appeared to be one long car chase broken up by intermittent motorcycle crashes. After two hours of deafening destruction, mercy arrived with the credits. However, as we were struggling to rise from the den furniture, Peg told me we had to stop by the theatre’s office before we left.
When we got to the office I casually referred to the cost of my childhood movies. The manager smiled condescendingly and pushed a legal size document toward us which had a listing of the cost of our tickets and refreshments. I thought it unusual that it asked for our Social Security numbers, birthdates and employment history. Then I saw the caption: Credit Application.
(Thanks to Cindy & Jeff Smotherman for the use of their photograph of the new theatre seats.)
The note “See Ashley” appears regularly on matters of Divorce, Paternity, Protective Orders and, especially, Child in Need of Services cases in the Posey Circuit Court. When I see that directive from Court Reporter Ashley Thompson I get the same feeling I had whenever my mother would say, “James Marion Redwine …” Mom’s use of my full name always preceded bad news. When Ashley calls my attention to a situation it is not because things in a case are going well.
My four court reporters are prohibited by law from giving legal advice. However, almost every citizen who is in need of court services also needs legal advice and expects the court reporters to give it. We actually have public information papers that explain this dilemma to citizens who either voluntarily seek justice from the court or who are brought into the legal vortex by some other person or entity such as a former spouse, the Division of Family and Children’s Services or the Prosecuting Attorney’s office.
Ashley Thompson has been a court reporter for ten years. While she cannot practice law she can and does assist people who come into contact with the court. Most people do not see a trip to a court as something good. The legal process is often both bewildering and scary. It can also affect the most dearly cherished aspects of life such as one’s children or freedom. Ashley can and does carefully and gently explain the procedure as she refers citizens to attorneys who can provide legal advice. The court is not allowed to recommend specific lawyers but the court reporters do have general information on which attorneys might concentrate in certain areas.
Ashley and her husband Bryan Thompson have four children and their whole family is deeply involved in their Point Township Nazarene Church. Bryan is a lay minister who is working toward ordination. Ashley managed to care for her family, her job and her community while completing her bachelor’s degree from Oakland City University in 2015.
Bryan and Ashley’s daughter Cassandra will graduate from Western Kentucky University this year. Their daughter Emma will start the 8th grade at Mt. Vernon Junior High this fall and eleven year old Levi will be in the 6th grade. Emma and Levi are both soccer players and active members of their church.
Eighteen-year-old Luke Thompson just returned from a church mission trip to Honduras where he gave of his time and hard work to paint school classrooms, roof buildings and fill food bags for those in need.
Ashley’s parents, Dennis and Bobbette Marshall, are both police officers. She grew up with the legal system ingrained in all aspects of her life. Her public service in the court is a natural progression. Ashley is the volunteer secretary for the Mt. Vernon Soccer Booster Club. She was honored as the Business and Professional Women’s Woman of the Year in 2006. And to cleanse her mind of the flotsam and jetsam in the court, Ashley regularly runs half-marathons.
Ashley and Bryan lead the Dave Ramsey Financial Peace course through their Nazarene church and provide volunteer marital counseling. Bryan also conducts a lay ministry at the Posey County jail.
Not all court contacts are traumatic. However, many of those who need the services over which Ashley has responsibility are embarrassed, confused and frightened. She can and does help assuage the pain. So, when citizens must “See Ashley” they need not feel as I often do.
You probably think this article is about the current presidential election. You would be incorrect. The title is literal. That is, what does the Posey Circuit Court do and who does it? Many of my friends ask me these questions. Actually, I do not have that many friends but the few I have often ask, “Do judges work?” One of my brothers, the one who practices law, answers this question thusly, “No!” But he was always prone to being overly dramatic. And his opinion is usually expressed right after he has lost a case. I do not feel any urge to disabuse him of his prejudice.
Instead I would like to share with you, Gentle Reader, an exposition of what really goes on in the Posey Circuit Court. Let’s start with one of the Court’s four court reporters, Liz Miller.
Elizabeth Ann (Dayton) Miller has been with the Court since January 2015. She is our newest member. While each court reporter may step in for the others when needed, each court reporter has particular areas of responsibility. Liz’s is court administration. She prepares and presents our budgets, claims and payroll to the Posey County Council, Board of Commissioners and the County Auditor. Liz also picks up the mail, prepares the next day’s files for court and transcribes testimony from court hearings.
Lizzie, as only her four siblings call her, was born in Kansas City, Missouri. Her family moved to Posey County when she was twelve so her father could take the position of plant chemist with G.A.F. Liz and all of her siblings graduated from Mt. Vernon High School.
Jeff Miller, Liz’s husband of 34 years, is a native of Savah where, according to Liz, he plans to stay until he becomes one with the soil. Jeff and Liz are members of Mt. Vernon’s First Christian Church.
Liz has been actively and deeply involved in public service in Posey County for many years. She was Co-Chair of Relay for Life 2001–2005. Liz received the Relay for Life Courage award in 2006. She has chaired the Gateway for Cancer Research Longaberger Basket BINGO every year since 2004.
While Liz has numerous other public service accomplishments one of her proudest honors is being chosen one of Posey County’s Torchbearers for Indiana’s Bi-Centennial Torch Relay celebration. To commemorate 200 years of Indiana history Hoosier citizens from across our state have been nominated and selected to carry the Torch from our first State Capitol in Harrison County through all 92 counties.
Liz and her fellow Posey County honorees will receive the Torch at noon on September 11, 2016 in Mt. Vernon in front of the Hovey House. She will be one of the twenty Posey County citizens who are being honored for their public service. Liz is grateful but humbled by this recognition of her dedication to helping others and promoting Indiana’s long tradition of service and progress.
To those who may wonder what the court does, I submit Liz. Perhaps we can discuss other Court functions and functionaries later.
Abraham Lincoln who was a storekeeper before he was a lawyer is credited with the statement:
“A lawyer’s time and advice is his stock in trade.”
But if an attorney becomes a judge what is her/his stock in trade? For what do we pay our judges? It is not their time; judges receive salaries. It is not their advice; judges are not supposed to give advice, only decisions based on the evidence and the law.
And why do we need somebody whose job it is to not give advice, i.e. to keep their personal opinions to themselves and decide cases objectively?
Society has plenty of people whose role it is to suggest and execute policy. County commissioners and council people, mayors, governors and presidents come to mind.
We also have lots of people whose job it is to pass legislation and fund it. State legislatures and Congress have those duties.
Such executive and legislative bodies have not only the right but also the obligation to express opinions and advocate for their positions. We elect these people for those very purposes. We may agree or disagree with our Executive and Legislative bodies as we choose.
But where do we look for objective decisions on important matters? What gives us confidence that issues wrangled over by individuals or such public servants as presidents and senators will be resolved fairly and impartially by that third branch of government, the Judiciary?
Judges have no armies or militia. Judges cannot impose taxes or pass legislation. Why do we even listen to much less comply with a judge’s decision, especially one we disagree with?
When I have taught judges from other countries such as Palestine or Ukraine or Russia they invariably ask me how I get citizens to accept my court judgments and follow them. In many other countries the concept of the Judiciary as a separate, equal and independent branch of government is impossible for the judges themselves to grasp. They are so used to court decisions being based on the political leanings and connections of judges nobody expects an unbiased judgment. America is supposed to be different.
Of course, we are all partisan. If a sitting judge voices a political opinion we agree with, we not only may not mind, we might applaud. Yeah for our side! However, should a judge portray prejudice against persons or positions we support we lose confidence in our legal system. And that is the only stock in trade judges have, i.e., confidence the judge is impartial.
The momentary elation we experience when some judge violates her/his duty and publicly rails for or against a particular person, party or position fades rapidly when we realize the judge is acting from prejudice. This is so because we know that we may have to face a judge who decides cases on whim not law.
There are many reasons America remains the land of the free but one of the most vital reasons is our independent judiciary. Are America’s judges human? Yes. Are they prejudiced? Yes. Is the perception they are going to decide cases without allowing their prejudices to control their view of the evidence important. You know it!