James F. Maguire, Editor | Indiana Court Times
This is the fiftieth of our Court Times articles that highlight up close and personal a member of the Indiana Judiciary.
Judge Matt Kincaid is the Superior Court 1 Judge in Boone County. He is a 1992 graduate of DePauw University and a 1997 graduate of Loyola University of Chicago School of Law. Following graduation, he practiced law for five years before being elected in 2002. He has been re-elected twice. He currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Judicial Conference of Indiana and is the chair of the Criminal Jury Instructions Committee. He is the Vice-President of the Sagamore Inn of Court.
Judge Kincaid met his wife, Molly, at a party in Chicago in 1996. They were married in June 1998. Molly has a master’s degree in Education, and she teaches at Gingerbread House Preschool in Zionsville. They have three children. Daughter Em is a sophomore at Purdue majoring in physics and playing viola in the orchestra. Son George volunteered for Habitat for Humanity this summer and is a senior at Zionsville High School. Daughter Maria is in the eighth grade and active in Zionsville Swim Club and orchestra. The Kincaids have one dog and two cats.
What was your childhood like?
I was crazy about baseball, but I was terrible. In my rookie year of Little League, I was zero for everything until the last game of the season. My grandfather came to watch that evening for the first time. Wouldn’t you know it, I hit two doubles that night! My grandfather lost his father when he was a child. He went to college at Butler, became a lawyer, then a state legislator, and he paved the way for success in our family. The night I hit the two doubles my grandfather died.
My dad was only 34 when my grandfather died. He became the Boone County Prosecutor and then a judge. Lucky for my prosecutor-judge dad (and luckier for me), I never got into too much trouble. I played a lot of golf and didn’t work too hard in school. I had great friends. I loved growing up in Lebanon. I enjoy lunch-time walks about town remembering things.
What prompted you to study law?
I studied economics at DePauw. Immediately after college, I was working as a lowly credit analyst at American National Bank in Chicago intent on a career in finance. One day I attended a large meeting where one of the bank’s lawyers was presenting a legal strategy for how the bank could minimize its losses on a troubled credit. Everyone listened to what he had to say. They had questions; he had answers. People assume I became a lawyer as part of our family tradition. But what prompted me into the law was watching that lawyer work. He was the adult in that room I most wanted to be like. I shelved my MBA plans and started studying for the LSAT.
What is the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of being a judge?
I think the biggest challenge to a judge is to redefine what it means to win. When you are a judge, you never win in a clear sense. Deciding between the lesser of two evils feels a lot like losing to me. Winning in judging is about how you handled your responsibilities. Did I spend the time it took to understand a complicated area of law? Did I listen actively? Was I courteous? Doing these things makes me feel like I’ve won, and it helps people who appear in court feel like they’ve been acknowledged whether they win or not.
What profession would you choose outside of the law?
Since my fastball tops out at 55 mph, relief pitching is out. I would like to do something creative. I’ve done a little community theater, and I think everything about it is fascinating—the writing, acting, and directing. I’d like to be on the radio—I have a great face for it.
Do you have any hobbies or favorite leisure activities?
I like to run. How did I get started? As Forrest Gump might say, “[One] day, for no particular reason, I decided to go for a little run.” This would’ve been some time in 1993 when I was living in Chicago. I’ve kept running ever since—ten marathons and I hope to finish more. It helps keep me focused (or maybe it’s an escape). Anyway, I like running.
Who are the people you most admire and why?
Encouragers. People who are good at putting others at ease. I like athletes and feats of overcoming adversity. I love people who are tough. People of faith. Artists and creative types. I like believers. People who trust their intuitive judgment. I admire people who know how to fix cars, because I don’t know how to do that.
Do you have a favorite saying or quote?
“The Constitution only gives people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.”
Name one or more books that would make your recommended reading list.
I like Donald Phillips’ Lincoln on Leadership: “Refrain from reading attacks upon yourself” (p. 75). Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose has influenced me, particularly an essay he reproduced in the introduction called “I, Pencil” by Leonard Read. I like shorter things, essays and such, including Vermont Royster’s “In Hoc Anno Domini” first published Christmas 1949 and every year since in the Wall Street Journal. George Orwell’s “Shooting an Elephant” is another classic. Ernest Hemingway’s novella “Old Man and the Sea” and his short stories are excellent.
Do you have a preferred getaway spot or place where you like to relax, alone or with your family?
My family enjoys time at Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin around Independence Day every year. For a “micro-getaway” I enjoy visiting Newfields Indianapolis Museum of Art, a yoga session at Simply Yoga in Zionsville, or running on a woodsy trail.
Do you have a favorite meal?
Pork chops on rice, a la my wonderful mother. Molly makes a terrific key lime pie. As a Hoosier, I enjoy a breaded tenderloin sandwich. Locally, Titus Bakery’s Persians are a real treat.
What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
I’m trying not to focus too much on the future—trying to be a stoic. I’m 49, and I love what I do. I have many fantastic partners and colleagues in Boone County and a tremendous court staff. I’d like to keep doing good work and other things that please me. Whatever else the future holds, I promise it won’t be boring.
What question did we not ask that you think should be asked?
You might have asked me about my family. My daughter Em is an artist who plays beautiful acoustic guitar and has a big-hearted sense of compassion and justice. My autism-spectral son George has the uncommon gift of always telling the truth. My daughter Maria is working on her first book that is something a bit like the Percy Jackson series except with Gaelic folklore—she also helps in the kitchen without being asked. My wife Molly loves to laugh (at me a lot but other things too) and makes everything possible—to marry her was the best decision this judge has ever made.