CLARK COUNTY — A Clark County judge indicted in June for engaging in a fist fight which led to the shooting of himself and another judge is taking responsibility for his actions, and says he learned a lot from the incident.
Andrew Adams, Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 judge, was in Indianapolis for a judicial conference May 1, when he and two other judges, after a night of drinking, engaged in an argument with two strangers at a fast-food restaurant just after 3 a.m. As things progressed, Adams and one of the other judges were shot by one of the men, who police say then fled the scene. They were later arrested.
The two judges underwent multiple emergency surgeries and were placed on paid medical leave. In June, Adams was indicted by a grand jury and ultimately pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery. One suspect received the same plea deal as Adams; a second suspect, still facing felony charges, has a jury trial set for March.
All three judges were later charged with judicial misconduct and placed on paid suspension; two were reinstated in November and Adams was allowed to return to the bench Jan. 13.
Adams, who filed for re-election in January, is unopposed as the sole Democrat in the primary election for Circuit 1. He told the News and Tribune that he wants to regain the public’s trust and continue helping those with addictions in Southern Indiana through specialized courts. But he’ll face political opposition in the fall election, as two local attorneys are running in the GOP primary for Circuit 1 judge. They both say they want to restore the dignity of the court after the incidents surrounding the shooting.
While he was limited in what he was allowed to say publicly prior to his reinstatement, Adams said he wants the public to know that this is not who he is.
“I’m sincerely sorry it happened,” he said. “The incidents of May 1 by no means define me as a person, definitely not a judge.
“Everybody says ‘would you change anything?’ Obviously I would have went back to the room earlier if I could change anything.”
Adams said the details of the incident will always stick with him — things moved in slow motion as emergency crews arrived and as he realized his colleague’s injuries — shots to the chest — were more serious than his own gunshot wounds to the abdomen, and he urged staff to treat his fellow judge first.
But Adams still is recovering from his own injuries, something he deals with daily; he is scheduled for a final surgery this spring.
“I can’t say enough that I was humbled by it and it gave me a different perspective...on family, on life, on my job and my role,” he said.
A ‘HIGHER STANDARD’
Dan Moore, a Southern Indiana attorney who previously served a term as Clark County Circuit Court No. 1 judge, and Kyle P. Williams, chief counsel for Region 15 for the Indiana Department of Child Services, will compete in the May 5 GOP primary.
Moore said while he feels it’s Adams’ story to tell, “I don’t think it’s a good story and I don’t think it reflects well on our court having the judge indicted and then suspended,” he said. “We’ve got to run that court more efficiently and with some higher values in mind.
“My story is we’re turning the corner; we’ve got to get past 2019 and the story of that parking lot.”
Moore said he’s glad Adams has apologized, but he’s concerned there may be credibility lost from the incident.
“Credibility is important when you’re a judge,” Moore said. “I believe adults in these public offices need to set examples for young people and that’s not a good one.”
Williams said Adams’ poor judgement that night and resulting consequences are very serious.
“I think we have a right to expect more from our judges and expect them to adhere to a higher standard of conduct,” Williams said. “Not going around at 3 at night in downtown Indianapolis when they should have been in bed getting ready to do the people’s business the next day.
“All of us felt [being shot] wasn’t something the judges deserved to have happen to them, but it’s the real consequences of the poor decisions they made that night.”
Adams said he understands people who ask how a person charged with this crime can be fit to judge others. He said the experience has given him new perspective on the cases that come before him.
“Before, I was pretty thorough, having been a defense attorney,” he said. “But it’s given me a keener eye to look father into and question incidents.
“I’m more apt to look at the small details of what’s going on in a case versus the overall charge itself. In my 15 years of practicing criminal law, what’s covered in the public is not always the details of how things occurred.”
Adams encourages anyone with questions about the incident in which he was involved to reach out or stop by to talk.
“I’m open about it, I’ve never hidden from this, I’ve taken responsibility,” he said. “That’s one five minute episode in five years I’ve been on the bench.”
PLANS FOR THE FUTURE
Adams said he’s seeking re-election to continue helping those experiencing addiction find the help they need — either by breaking the cycle of incarceration or keeping them from going to jail in the first place.
During this term, he’s joined forces with Floyd County Superior Court No. 3 Judge Maria Granger in expanding the Veterans Court of Southern Indiana to Clark County, started the Clark County Addiction Treatment Services (CCATS) program, which helps those with lower level, nonviolent crimes get treatment to address their addiction, and possibly keep from returning. There are currently 23 people enrolled , and the first is expected to graduate in March.
Most recently, he initiated the Southern Indiana Life Improvement Project — funded by the Indiana Supreme Court — to help people who may not be in the court system and who don’t have insurance, get help with addiction issues.
“I want to continue these programs,” he said. “There’s the opportunity to make such a huge difference for individuals in our community, when so many suffer from this disease and addiction.”
He added that as one of the busiest courts in the state, “I’ve been advised on several occasions that we’re very efficient in running that,” he said. “I think how we look at the process has been outstanding.”
Moore said if he wins the primary and general election, he’d like to take the court back to “justice, service and stability,” and wants to invest in young people, helping to teach them about the judicial system. This could be through reading to first- and second-graders, which he’s done for some time.
“I really want them to understand the courtroom, too,” he said. He also believes there’s a place in today’s courthouse for problem-solving courts.
“[It’s] the whole idea of the judges 10, 20 years ago saying ‘you did the crime, we’re going to lock you up,’ [to] reaching out to say you’re coming through the system seven times, what’s behind it all and let’s look into that.’”
Williams said if he’s elected, he’ll strive to be someone with “sound, trusted judgement, who the public can trust to make the right decisions,” he said.
He added that his experience — 26 years practicing law across the board and multiple terms on the Jeffersonville Redevelopment Commission — coupled with his new ideas make him the best fit to be the next Circuit 1 judge.
“I think we need a fresh start in that court,” he said. “I don’t think it is [good] to go back to the old ways and have somebody who represents the old ways.
“I think we need to have a fresh face in there, and a fresh experienced face.”