This is the twenty-fifth of our Court Times articles that highlight up close and personal a member of the Indiana Judiciary.
Vigo County Superior Court Judge Phillip I. Adler is our judge featured in this issue. He received both his undergraduate and law degrees from Indiana University in Bloomington. Following graduation from law school, he accepted a position with a large Terre Haute law firm.
In 1975, he was appointed Vigo County’s first full-time chief deputy prosecutor and served in that position for four years. He returned to private practice with one other attorney, former Vigo Circuit Court Judge C. Joseph Anderson.
In 1986, he was elected Vigo County Prosecuting Attorney and served in that capacity for ten years. In 1992, Adler served as president of the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Association and was appointed by Governor Evan Bayh to the Law Enforcement Training Board.
In 1997, the Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council presented Adler with the Eugene “Shine” Feller award in recognition of his outstanding service and contribution on behalf of prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement in the State of Indiana. The award’s namesake, Feller, was an attorney from Southern Indiana who was an early proponent of better training for prosecutors.
He was elected as a Vigo County Superior Court Judge in the fall of 1996 and has been on the bench ever since. When the Indiana Supreme Court first established pro bono districts throughout the state, Judge Adler was appointed by the Supreme Court as District 7 Chairman and served in that role for seven years. In 2001, Adler received the Indiana Bar Foundation Pro Bono Publico Award, upon the nomination of former Chief Justice Randall Shepard. He is also a graduate of the Indiana Judicial College.
Judge Adler and his wife, Patty, were married in 1970. Patty has a degree in Elementary Education from Indiana University and has been teaching for the past several years. For many years she was active in local community theater and received numerous awards for her acting, dancing and singing talents.
They have three children, Scott, age 39, who recently started his own business in Portland, Oregon; Michael, age 37, an attorney in Indianapolis; and, Meredith, age 32, a former elementary education teacher who is now a stay-at-home mom with twin four-year-old children. They are the proud grandparents of six grandchildren, three boys and three girls, and the owners of three “rescue” cats.
What do you like most and least about being a trial court judge?
I very much enjoy being witness to the fine art of advocacy presented by very skillful and compelling attorneys. Listening to imaginative, and often times brilliant analysis of complex legal issues, I find to be fascinating. Being in the courtroom is very much like being in a classroom -it seems that I often learn something new about the law. I enjoy learning.
I have a terrific staff. They have been with me for a very long time and they make me look better than I really am. Also, I have terrific colleagues here in Vigo County who I respect and enjoy very much.
What I like least is dealing with those divorced parents who use their children as weapons against one another and who keep coming back to court, time and again, almost always pro se, raising picky, insignificant issues. Despite my admonitions and lectures, these “frequent flyers” just don’t get it. The he said/she said testimony that often occurs with these parents makes me wonder if the quickest way to get someone to lie is to just put them under oath. One would think that when dealing with the best interests of their own children they would use common sense; however, as time goes by, I realize more and more that common sense really isn’t all that common.
What was your major in college and why did you decide to study law?
I majored in business administration. I became interested in the law when I was in high school and was fascinated with criminal law in particular. I enjoyed writing and I did well in speech and logic classes in college. I thought that I might have talents that could serve me well in the law.
What would you do if you were not a judge?
Before I was elected judge, I was the prosecuting attorney and in private practice. So, if I were not a judge, I would likely be back in private practice specializing in personal injury plaintiffs’ litigation.
In my youth, I learned to do yo-yo tricks, spin plates, juggle, and perform magic and sleight of hand. I have thought that if the law career didn’t work out, I could always join the circus. Of course, that is what my law professors suggested to me forty plus years ago.
Who are the people you most admire?
I admire people who help and protect children and animals, especially those who receive only modest compensation and little recognition for their efforts. These folks will have a special place in Heaven.
What are your hobbies or favorite leisure activities, and how did you first get involved?
I have enjoyed participating in sports throughout my life—basketball, golf, table tennis, badminton, and in particular, tennis. In recent years I have discovered a new racquet sport—Pickleball. It has a funny name but it is great fun and it incorporates the skills of all racquet sports I have enjoyed in the past. At my age, it is much easier on my body than tennis. I highly recommend it to anyone who likes racquet sports and wishes to stay active.
Patty and I thoroughly enjoy spending as much time with our children and grandchildren as possible. They are pure joy and we are rhapsodic when we share time together.
What are your favorite books, and have you read any recently, or are reading now, that you would recommend?
Two of my favorite books are To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and I highly recommend it. And, what parent/grandparent doesn’t enjoy reading the books of Dr. Seuss to their children or grandchildren?
Where did you grow up and how would you describe your childhood?
I grew up in Columbus, Indiana, the county seat of Bartholomew County. Columbus has been dubbed “The Athens of the Prairie” because of its reputation for being a progressive city. It has a worldwide reputation for its spectacular modern architecture. I was raised in an upper-middle class family. My father was a medical doctor and my mother was the traditional stay-at-home mom. As a kid, I played virtually all sports. In high school, I was a medical lab technician and I also formed a rock and roll band. We played at various venues throughout central Indiana. I was the drummer. I enjoyed a very normal and happy childhood.
Do you have a favorite quote(s)?
Abe Lincoln wrote, “And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, it’s the life in your years.”
Although I’m not certain of the author, I have always liked, “A man never stands so tall as to when he stoops to help a child.”
Where is your favorite vacation spot?
We have vacationed many times over the past 30 years in Hilton Head, South Carolina.
We enjoyed visiting my oldest son and his family when they lived in Orange County, California. It is a beautiful venue with near perfect weather, spectacular ocean views, and restaurants to satisfy the most discriminating epicurean. San Francisco is also a favored vacation destination.
Do you have a favorite meal, recipe, and restaurant?
My favorite meal is the traditional Thanksgiving dinner—roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, noodles, dressing, gravy, rolls, and of course pumpkin/pecan pie.
I have enjoyed the fare at Shapiro’s Delicatessen in Indianapolis for more than 55 years. It is one of my favorites, in good measure, because I began eating there with my parents when I was 10 years old. It resurrects fond memories every time I visit, and of course, the food is excellent.
I truly enjoy all varieties of food—Asian, Mediterranean, French, Italian, American and delicatessen.