By James F. Maguire, Editor | Indiana Court Times
This is the forty-ninth of our Court Times articles that highlight a member of the Indiana Judiciary.
LaGrange Superior Court Judge Lisa Bowen-Slaven graduated from Purdue University in December of 1989 and obtained a law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1993. Following law school, she practiced in Tippecanoe County as a part-time Deputy Public Defender and in private practice in the Law Office of Marcel Katz until April of 1997.
She married Steve Slaven in December of 1994 and moved back to LaGrange County after starting their family. She worked for the Fort Wayne law firm of Beers Mallers Backs & Salin from 1997 through 2006, then branched out to her own solo general practice in LaGrange County until her election as Judge of LaGrange Superior Court in 2014.
Her husband has worked as a manager for a retail propane distributor for 22 years. They are the proud parents of two children: Mitchell, age 23, and Mason, age 19.
What was your childhood like?
I was born in a suburb of Seattle, Washington and then lived for a few years in Miami, Florida. My father was an aeronautical engineer and worked for Boeing and then Eastern Airlines, which explains my early childhood outside of Indiana. My mother was a teacher and both of my parents grew up in Shipshewana, Indiana. My mother decided that our family was moving back to Shipshewana in the early 70’s.
I have an older brother and an older sister. I enjoyed a wonderful childhood growing up on Shipshewana Lake and all the freedoms that were common in the 70’s. If I wasn’t swimming or boating on the lake with my friends, then I was playing sports, riding bikes, or going to piano lessons. I also had a newspaper bicycle route around the lake for most of my childhood. I attended Westview High School and was active in sports.
What prompted you to study law?
I started out in the engineering school at Purdue University, but I decided that it wasn’t the career for me. My sophomore year, I took a business law class and decided that law school may be for me. After receiving degrees in Technical Graphics and Supervision Technology from Purdue, I attended Valparaiso School of Law.
What is the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of being a judge?
When I first took the bench in January 2015, the most challenging aspect for me was scheduling cases and tackling the backlog. Today, I would say that the increasing number of self-represented litigants and time-consuming administrative matters are my biggest challenges.
The most rewarding part of being a judge is seeing the appreciation of litigants for being treated with respect and receiving thoughtful consideration, regardless of the outcome. It’s also rewarding to watch the Drug Court participants overcome their addiction and blossom into their former selves.
What profession would you choose outside of the law?
If money were no object, I would own and operate a large ranch out west, preferably Montana (i.e., Ted Turner or Kevin Costner style ranch). It’s my ongoing motivation for playing Powerball.
Do you have any hobbies or favorite leisure activities?
I enjoy hanging out with our rescue dogs at home. We also have chickens and goats. My oldest son and I have a Boer goat business. We used to have horses and numerous other 4-H animals, but we’ve whittled it down to chickens and goats since our kids went away to college.
In the summer, you can find me outside working on landscaping projects. In the winter, I typically have one room of our house torn apart and in the process of a DIY remodel.
I’ve also always enjoyed working out and became more serious about lifting weights approximately five years ago. Working out and lifting at the gym with my sons is my favorite activity.
Who are the people you most admire and why?
The most influential person in my life was my grandmother, Elizabeth “Betty” Smith. She grew up during the Depression and went on to become a successful businesswoman. She was a strong woman who always encouraged me to step out of my comfort zone and pursue new adventures.
After attending the Judges Graduate program in 2017/2018 and meeting Senior Judge Betty Barteau during that program, I have added another “Betty” to my list of people that I most admire. The struggles she endured while blazing a trail for future female attorneys is awe-inspiring.
Do you have a favorite saying or quote?
I’m a motivational quote junkie. I have lots of favorite quotes. Some of them are:
“Your dreams don’t work unless you do.”
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.”
“Integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching.”
Name one or more books that would make your recommended reading list.
At this point in my life, I mostly read non-fiction books. I enjoy reading travel books to learn about the different cultures around the world. I also enjoy autobiographies of interesting people.
I have always enjoyed the John Grisham books, so if I were to read a fictional novel, it would be one of his. One of my favorite Grisham books is The Brethren. I’m currently reading the Stephen Hawking book entitled Brief Answers to the Big Questions. It’s a book that really makes you think about our universe and the bigger picture.
Do you have a preferred getaway spot or place where you like to relax, alone or with your family?
During the winter months, I look forward to a trip to a beach in a southern climate. There’s nothing as relaxing for me as the sound of the ocean waves.
Do you have a favorite meal/recipe/restaurant?
My favorite food is seafood, especially shrimp and lobster. I don’t really have a favorite restaurant, but I enjoy trying coastal non-franchise seafood restaurants when on vacation.
What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
Our oldest son graduated from Purdue University this past year and our youngest son is currently a Purdue student. I’m looking forward to seeing where their careers take them and where they will end up settling in with a family of their own. I’d also like to start traveling internationally.