Letter to the Precinct Chairs & Vice-Chairs

Catherine at County Fair.png

June 22, 2017

Dear Precinct Chair:

I am excited to announce that I am running for Monroe Circuit Judge, Seat VI, in 2018.  

Almost the first question folks ask is “Why are you running.”  I am running for Judge because I believe that a good judge is one who knows the law, listens to the parties and attorneys carefully, weighs the evidence, and makes a prompt and well-reasoned decision.  I hope to fulfill that role as your next Monroe Circuit Court Judge Seat 6.

And I often hear this question, “What kind of cases would you hear?”  The short answer is that there’s no way to know at this point.  Sitting judges can move into dockets served by the retiring judges and dockets are selected by seniority.  With that said, I would prefer a docket of civil cases and would hope to hear family cases and, ideally, the CHINS (Child in Need of Services) cases as Judge Hill currently does.

Finally, I often get the question, “What’s your platform?”  While it is not appropriate for judicial candidates to have a traditional platform of public policy positions, a candidate can focus on the administrative, organizational, and management aspects of the office.  If elected, I plan to work hard to get cases scheduled with due regard to the needs of the parties, to issue orders promptly, and to work with our local nonprofit and legal community to further assistance for pro se litigants (those without attorneys).

Professional Experience

I've been an attorney for 20 years, practicing in many areas of civil law, and focusing for the past ten years on family law.  I am also a Certified Family Law Specialist, as certified by the Family Law Certification Board; a Registered Domestic Relations Mediator; and I often practice Collaborative Law.  While I prefer to resolve cases through negotiation or mediation, I also frequently litigate, appearing in court several times a week.

I started my career working in nonprofits, including serving as a legal services attorney here in the Bloomington office of Indiana Legal Services, Inc.  I participate actively in the Bloomington Association of Collaborative Professionals (BACP), a local practice group of attorneys, mental health professionals, and financial professionals, working together to further the use of Collaborative Divorce as a means to help divorced families have better financial and mental health outcomes for the adults and children.

For the last several years, I’ve been a member of the Board of Directors of the Monroe County Bar Association (MCBA) and I currently serve as its Vice President. My Vice-President project is helping to form practice area sections within the MCBA where attorneys can meet to discuss the law and talk informally.  As Secretary from 2014 through 2016, I worked to update the membership platform, web site, and technology for the association. I’ve been an active member of the Monroe County Bench Bar Conference Planning Committee since 2010.

I enjoy teaching as an Adjunct Professor at the IU Maurer School of Law, teaching a mediation seminar to upper level students and teaching "Modern Small Firm Practice" during the 2017 Wintersession. I also serve as a member of the Ivy Tech Criminal Justice and Paralegal Studies Advisory Council.

Pro Bono Service

Pro Bono Publico ("for the public good") is legal work for low-income people or causes that need volunteer help such as environmental and social justice movements.  I am proud to have a long history of pro bono work extending back to my first year in law school when I began volunteering at the Legal Aid Society in Minneapolis. I take cases through the District 10 Pro Bono Project and volunteer at Counsel in the Court (a District 10 program) to provide free legal advice and document preparation to low income people.  I also serve as a volunteer attorney for CASAs (Court Appointed Special Advocates).  This spring, I’ve been proud to serve as a volunteer attorney for Know Your Rights!, which provides free walk-in legal advice and document preparation for immigrants concerned about possible detention. The program is organized by El Centro Communal Legal and District 10 Pro Bono Project and works to help immigrants create documents to ensure care for their children in case the parents are detained.  

Political Involvement

I have decades of involvement in our local Monroe County Democratic Party (MCDP), the third generation of my family to be active in our local party.  I am active in the Democrats’ Club, Democratic Women’s Caucus, Democracy for Monroe County, and the Monroe County Black Caucus. I am a member of the NAACP and of NOW.  I served recently as Vice Chair of Washington Precinct.  In 2016, I coordinated our local party’s voter protection efforts with a team of fantastic attorney and community volunteers.  Over the last few decades, I have served as MCDP Treasurer, Vice-Chair of Bloomington 1, get out the vote efforts, and other trainings.  I was a founding member of the Democratic Women’s Caucus Steering Committee and drafted the DWC original bylaws. I’ve gone door-to-door many times, including in Martinsville in 2016 for Penny Githens.  I have assisted on three prior judicial campaigns as well as on city council and county races.  Although I am a lifelong Democrat, I count several Republicans among my closest friends and pride myself on working hard to maintain civil and respectful dialogue and communication with all people of good faith.

Community Service

My family instilled a dedication to community service in me from a young age.  I grew up volunteering for environmental causes, the local democrats, and the League of Women Voters.  I’ve served on the boards of many local arts and social services nonprofits and on city and county commissions. I’m proud to be a founding board member of Navigators of Monroe County, our local chapter of a national scouting group open to all children regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious status.  Currently, I serve as Co-Chair of the Monroe County Women’s Commission and on the Monroe County Plan Review Committee.  

I believe it is critical for our local judges to continue a commitment to helping all who enter our legal system in a fair and transparent way and I look forward to making that commitment.  I encourage you to review my campaign website at www.staffordforjudge.org and contact me at catherine@staffordforjudge.org if you have questions or are interested in more information.  

I appreciate your time and I ask for your vote in May of 2018.




Candidate for Monroe Circuit Court, Seat 3, Division VI