Hon. Thomas K. Milligan
August 31, 2009 by James F. Maguire
This is the fourth of our Court Times articles that highlight up close and personal a member of the Indiana Judiciary. Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Thomas K. Milligan is our judge featured in this issue. Judge Milligan practiced law in Crawfordsville for eight years before running for judicial office. He was first elected as Circuit Court Judge in 1974, and re-elected in 1980, 1986, 1992, 1998 and 2004. He served as President of the Indiana Judges Association from 2001 to 2003.
What do you like most, and least, about being a trial court judge?
What I like most about being a trial court judge is the combination of the intellectual or academic challenge that comes with interesting and difficult cases and the interesting and intriguing interactions with the public and attorneys in the courtroom. I also like the contact and engagement with lawyers who are, for the most part, very bright and interesting people.
What I like least about being a trial court judge is dealing with the same people over and over again with the same problems, the increasing bureaucratic demands made by the Division of State Court Administration, the unnecessarily complex procedures and protocols developed and being developed as a result of the DCS taking over the payment of services for children and the state taking over the payment of the DCS expenses, and the changes in DCS organization and documentation requirements. Also it seems that the trial courts, in particular, are being asked more and more to become social service agencies rather than courts that decide cases and resolve disputes between litigants.
There, you asked for it, so I gave it to you.
What was your major at Wabash College and why did you decide to study law?
I decided to study law because I graduated as an English major from Wabash College, and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. A fraternity brother was studying at I.U. Law School in Bloomington. I went and stayed with him for a couple of days, liked what I experienced, was admitted to school there and never looked back.
What would you do if you were not a judge and what do you like to do when you are not on the bench?
If I were not a judge I could be awfully busy. I would pursue a couple of business interests with which I am presently in a small way remotely involved. I would ramp up my beekeeping. I would be more involved in the care and maintenance of some farmland we own. I would continue to work hard to keep Mrs. Milligan happy. I would spend more time bicycling and fly fishing. I would be involved in any program that encourages children to read. I would be spending, hopefully, more time with our children and grandchildren.
Who are the people you most admire?
The people I most admire (after each of the members of the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals to whom I write every time I write an order or an opinion) are my wife, Suanne, and our son and daughter. Suanne has had a series of successful careers as a working adult. As a volunteer she has been, and continues to be, involved in the community. She acquits herself with grace and dignity and she enjoys the admiration of those with whom she works. Each of our two children has been able to pursue her and his interests and careers and has achieved and is achieving their individual goals. And while neither our son nor daughter is a lawyer they have each married lawyers. I admire their ability to maintain their focus, their good humor, and their Midwestern values and work ethic even though they are presently in the East.
What are your favorite books and have you read any recently or are reading now that you really like?
Anything by Isaac B. Singer, Elmore Leonard, Tony Hillerman, or Walter Mosley; the Bible, especially Psalms, Proverbs, Romans and Corinthians.
Recent reads I would recommend are: The Forever War by Dexter Filkins; Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and The Given Day by Dennis Lehan.
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?
I grew up in the small town of Waveland here in Montgomery County. I would describe my childhood as idyllic. Ours was the second house from the school (all 12 grades), and we lived across the street from the church we attended. I had the run of the town on my bicycle, could go skinny-dipping in a creek outside of town, and I knew practically everyone who lived in town. They all knew me too and any remarkable behavior, good or bad, reached home before I did.
Do you have a favorite quote(s)?
“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
“Even a fish wouldn’t get into trouble if it kept its mouth shut.”
“This too shall pass.”
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
Anywhere I can be with or near our children and grandchildren.
What is your favorite meal/recipe/restaurant?
Meat and potatoes fixed as only the women in my family or the “church ladies” can fix.