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Superior Court to have new judge

Harrison County Superior Court will have a new judge come Jan. 1. Voters will determine if it will be Dennis L. Byrd, the Democrat candidate, or Joseph (Joe) Claypool, the Republican candidate.
The previous judge, Roger D. Davis, who had sat on the bench for nearly 18 years, had filed to seek another term but then withdrew his name in July. About a month later, Davis resigned his position.
The two candidates provided the following answers to a questionnaire sent to them by this newspaper.
Name and residency: Dennis Lee Byrd, lifelong resident of Harrison County; current residence is Corydon
Family: Parents, (the late) Roscoe Junior and Elizabeth Ann Byrd; wife of 26 years, Terri Lynn Fleace Byrd; and three children, Caitlyn, Michael and Kelcie
Education/Occupation/Political experience: Attended North Harrison and South Harrison schools; 1977 graduate of South Harrison school system; 1982 graduate of Indiana University Southeast; 1988 graduate of the University of Dayton, School of Law; practicing attorney. I have practiced law in Harrison County for more than 25 years. I have served as prosecuting attorney of Harrison County and also been a civil attorney working in the law offices of Burgher & Lopp, O’Bannon, Funk, Simpson, Thompson and Byrd and Burgher & Burgher. Harrison County Prosecutor for two terms: 2003-2010.
Contact information for voters: Dennis Byrd for Judge on Facebook; home telephone number 812-738-7913 or cell phone number 812-267-2075
Why are you seeking the office (in 100 words or less)? I feel it is important to have a judge that is experienced, fair and impartial. I was honored to serve as the elected prosecutor. It is a privilege to be a part of this community through involvement in Pfrimmer’s Chapel United Methodist Church and organizations like Harrison County Farm Bureau, Lions Club, Repair Affair, Blue River Services and others. This is my community. It and everyone in it are important to me. I believe that my work and experiences as a lifelong resident of this community enable me to be the kind of judge that Harrison County needs and deserves.
Why should someone vote for you rather than your opponent (in 150 words or less)? Experience. I have practiced law for over 25 years in Harrison County. It has been and continues to be my occupation. As a prosecuting attorney and a civil attorney in private practice, I have handled thousands of cases, including the successful prosecution of murder cases without spending millions of dollars to do so. The Superior Court handles thousands of serious cases a year. It is vitally important that we elect a judge that has the experience and knowledge to handle those cases correctly and appropriately. It is also important that we elect a judge that understands how to administer justice fairly and impartially. As prosecutor, I made decisions daily that affected the lives of people and their families. I have always tried to be thoughtful and fair. As judge, I will do the same and perform the duties of the office impartially, competently and diligently with respect for all.
What changes, if any, would you make to Superior Court (in 100 words or less)? I would seek to run the court on time and attempt to handle cases as quickly as possible. I would explore the possibility of implementing a night court for cases like small claims and/or civil traffic matters for a time more convenient for citizens of the county. I would explore the feasibility of implementing a drug court to reduce recidivism by providing them with tools they need to help battle their addictions. I would like to implement a program that would encourage schools to bring students to court to allow them to learn and understand the judicial system. I would seek to ensure open lines of communication between the court and sheriff and prosecutor’s office.
Name and residency: Joseph (Joe) Claypool, Corydon
Family: My son, Adam, is a small business owner (contractor) in Hamilton County, where he lives with my granddaughter, Jane. My daughter, Genevieve, is a Navy nurse (Ensign, USN) on active duty. My mother, Genevieve, will turn 100 in November.
Education/Occupation/Political experience: Master’s of business administration and Juris Doctor degrees from Indiana University; associate editor of the Indiana Law Review; honorable discharge from the U.S. Marine Corps; worked on our family’s farm as a teenager and later, as an adult, was part of its management team; 36 years of experience as a practicing attorney in Indiana and member in good standing of the Indiana Bar; registered arbitrator for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority; administrative director of the Indianapolis Zoo during its relocation to its current site; executive director of the 1991 World Gymnastics Championships held at the Hoosier Dome; although I am a lifelong Republican, I was appointed to five consecutive terms on the Governor’s Council for Fitness and Sport by governors Bayh, O’Bannon and Kernan (all Democrats); member of the American Legion, NRA and Farm Bureau; attend St. Joseph Catholic Church, Corydon, and served on the board of education of my former parish; I have worked in Harrison County for the last eight years as a police officer/gaming agent for the Indiana Gaming Commission, where I have been the lead agent on over 140 cases, the majority of which were felonies; worked with sheriff’s departments and prosecutor offices led by members of both political parties; Indiana Law Enforcement Academy certified instructor. I have never held a political office.
Contact information for voters: [email protected]; Joe Claypool for Judge on Facebook; Joe Claypool for Judge Committee, 415 N. Capitol Ave., Corydon, IN 47112
Why are you seeking the office (in 100 words or less)? Commitment to community was instilled in me not only by parents, church and school, but also by my involvement in Scouting. I became an Eagle Scout at age 14, which helped mold the belief I hold today, that everyone should give of their time and talent to their community. There is a long legal tradition in my family. My grandfather, Phillip Lutz, a Democrat, was Indiana Attorney General from 1933 to 1937. Before Grandma Lutz passed away, she gave me his gavel, saying, “You will need this someday.” I still have the gavel and hope to prove her right.
Why should someone vote for you rather than your opponent (in 150 words or less)? As an attorney for 30+ years, I have worked in over 20 counties across Indiana, representing hundreds of clients. I know how important it is that the court system be run with fairness, honesty and impartiality. I know the importance of courts being run efficiently. For the past eight years, I have worked as a law enforcement officer in Harrison County. I am experienced in both criminal and civil law and with both the prosecution and defense of cases. I understand that politics, family connections and “who you know” have no place in the courtroom. I am committed to upholding the Constitution and the rights it protects for all of us, regardless of where we were born, where we live or who we know. Everyone is entitled to have their day in court in a timely manner, being treated with courtesy and respect from the bench.
What changes, if any, would you make to Superior Court (in 100 words or less)? Harrison Superior Court proceedings should start promptly at the time they are scheduled. The court should seriously contemplate methods to improve efficiency and save tax dollars. For example, the court could consider the use of closed-circuit TV for initial and routine hearings with jail inmates, rather than expending the time and money to have corrections personnel shuffling inmates to and from the courtroom and standing with them during the proceedings. This process is used in other counties in Indiana, where it has been implemented successfully. The court would benefit from a new perspective unconnected to previous administrations.