Oath of office

Photo by Michael Johnson

White County Superior Court Judge Robert Mrzlack, left, administers the oath of office to Monticello Mayor Cathy Gross during a ceremony Dec. 30, 2019, at the AMVETS post.

MONTICELLO — A White County judge has been honored by the Indiana Supreme Court for his years of service on the bench.

Judge Robert Mrzlack, who presides over cases in White County Superior Court, was one of 24 overall judicial officers honored by the Indiana Supreme Court earlier this month. He was one of 15 to be honored for years of service on the bench, while nine others received an Indiana Judicial College certificate.

Mrzlack has served as White County Superior Court Judge for 24 years. His service will end Dec. 31 with his retirement as he did not seek another six-year term. He will be replaced on the bench Jan. 1, 2021, by Brad Woolley, who won the June 2 primary election and does not face a challenger in the Nov. 3 general election.

“I am grateful for the opportunity to have served as judge of the White Superior Court for the past 24 years,” he said. “Being a judge is hard work. It can be isolating and stressful. Being honored by Loretta Rush, Chief Justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, for my 24 years of service is very much appreciated.”

Mrzlack was quick to give credit to his court staff — Jane Sprunger (bailiff), Ricki Westerhouse (court administrator) and Jamie Hicks (court reporter).

“They have spent several years with me and deserve a tremendous amount of credit for taking care of me,” he said.

Mrzlack said most people who come before him in court suffer from substance abuse disorders, which adds to the challenge of being a judge.

“It’s a real struggle and a real problem,” he said. “Convincing people to change their attitude and behavior is hard. But by connecting people with appropriate treatment, combined with incarceration, community corrections alternatives — which allows for the development of stable work opportunities — and/or probation, we have seen some success.”

Those successes, Mrzlack said, account for some of his best days, which include receiving letters from people who have been in his court.

“I received one a few days ago, thanking me for sentencing them and for helping them save their lives,” he said. “You can tell that they are truly proud of what they have been able to accomplish and I am so proud of them as well. Those notes just reinforce my belief that there is good in most people.”

For the Indiana Judicial College certificate, judges must complete 120 hours of education presented by the Indiana Office of Court Services, a part of the Office of Judicial Administration that serves as the state’s judicial research and continuing judicial education agency. The program enhances legal knowledge, and improves personal and professional development for judges, probation officers and other court personnel.

Other area judges receiving recognition include Pulaski Superior Court Judge Crystal Brucker Kocher (IJC certificate) and Benton County Circuit Court Judge Rex Kepner (24 years of service).

Trial judges are commonly elected to a six-year term; therefore, those receiving the 24-year certificate have likely been elected more than four times.

The accomplishments were celebrated during the state’s annual judicial conference, which was conducted virtually to accommodate social distancing measures.