"I have been truly honored to serve as the Circuit Court Judge over the last five years and hope to continue my service to the citizens of Putnam County," Headley said. "I have treated the citizens in the court room with respect, patience and consistency. I am always trying to think of new ways to provide a better service for those who come in contact with the court."
Headley is a lifelong Putnam County resident. His previous legal experience includes stints as Putnam County prosecutor and Putnam County deputy prosecutor as well as being in private practice in Greencastle.
Headley has also served as attorney for several different organizations, including the Putnam County Hospital, the Putnam County Council, Putnam County Community Foundation, Zoning and Planning for Town of Cloverdale and Putnam County, town attorney for Spencer, and utility attorney for Bainbridge.
His family includes his wife, Karen, a Cloverdale elementary teacher and two children, Preston and Olivia.
"We've met and exceeded most of the goals that I set for the court and some we are still working on," Headley said. "The reason I say 'we' is that its not just the judge, it's the staff, the clerk's office, the probation departments, community correction, Department of Child Services, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), the prosecutors, the defense attorneys and others that make the court system run efficiently. It is a cooperative effort to keep court activities running smoothly. Although the ultimate decision often rests with the judge, many others play a significant role.
"I believe that one of the areas that is working well is in juvenile cases," Headley continued. "From the beginning, I stressed that I wanted to get the juvenile into the court room as soon as possible to protect potential other victims, to find out what is going on in the juvenile's life and see if we can put structure in place to prevent further destructive behavior. We have also started a 'Teen Court' with the assistance of Linda Merkel, the executive director of the Putnam County Youth Development and in cooperation with the prosecutor's office. This program allows juveniles to be judged by their peers for certain offenses. Area students act as prosecutors, defense attorneys, jury members and court personal in the actual courtroom. Local lawyers donate their time to act as the judge in these cases."
Headley has been involved in the development of other programs as well.
Another program we have launched is the 'CHOICES' program," he said. "Through the cooperation of all the county schools, we have every fifth grader observe actual cases for one morning in juvenile court. Carol Emery, a retired counselor from South Putnam, and the juvenile probation officers, meet with the students at their school to prepare them for the court session. Obviously, the goal of this program is that the choices you make do have consequences. If we can prevent one child from making the wrong choice and landing in the juvenile delinquent system, then the program is a success. The teachers have the children write letters to me about their experience in court. Often, the letters begin with, 'I didn't know that' or 'I'll never do' or 'Now I know.'"
Headley also expressed support for established court programs.
"Of course, we still use the GRASP program for those students who have been suspended from school for actions that may or may not arise to the level of a delinquent case," he said. "To emphasize my commitment to the program, I personally see every student who is suspended from school, along with his or her parents, in the court room.
"We've added a juvenile substance abuse program to work with those juveniles that need this assistance," he continued. "We have a truly dynamic person, James "Figgy" Hardwick, who facilitates this program."
Headley lauded the efforts of those involved with the court programs.
"Most of these programs have added significant value to the court system, while costing very little in actual dollars," he said. "For instance, the CASA program, lead by Patti Harmless, is funded largely by a grant; however, after I informed the Putnam County Council of the state law change which requires every child to have a court advocate in Department of Child Services cases and that there is need for additional funds to comply with the change, the Council was very supportive of increasing the CASA funding instead of other more expensive avenues."
While criminal cases are often the most high-profile of the cases that come through Circuit Court, many other types also reach Headley's bench.
"Citizens often ask me about the criminal cases that are covered in the Banner Graphic newspaper," he said. "Those cases are important, no doubt. However, my criminal docket is only about 20 percent of the time allocated to my weekly caseload. Most of my court time is family law, guardianships, estates, Children In Need of Services, adoptions, juvenile and general civil actions. I must admit, coming straight from the Prosecutor's Office to being the judge on some these civil cases was a learning curve for me. I believe I've met that challenge and provided not just decisions, but reasons for my decisions. No one likes to lose, however, it is important for most people to know why the decision was made."
Headley would like to serve another term and reach more pinnacles.
"Two goals that I strive to make a reality are to appoint court advocates for the elderly in cases such as guardianships, as well as creating a juvenile mentor program," he said. "Many of the elderly just want to know they have someone who they can talk to about the court action -- someone who isn't a relative or doesn't have a stake in the outcome. Juveniles, too, need that kind of support -- ones that are on the cusp of making a crucial decision and may just need to have an adult to confide with. I would like to expand the Family Court Project to place even greater emphasis on collaborative divorce rather than 'take no prisoners' divorce when children are involved. Law enforcement and I have discussed the advantages and disadvantages of a work release program. Time, money and cooperation are always needed. I certainly do not have all the answers, and I welcome suggestions-critical or complimentary.
"In summary, I would be honored to continue to serve as Circuit Court judge," Headley concluded.