By James F. Maguire, Editor | Indiana Court Times
This is the fifty-first of our Court Times articles that highlights a member of the judiciary.
Judge Christopher Lee is the Circuit Court Judge in Fulton County. He is a 1990 graduate of the University of Georgia and a 1993 graduate of Mercer University, Walter F. George School of Law. Following graduation, he moved to Rochester, Indiana, and worked in private practice with an emphasis on criminal defense and domestic relations law. In 2002, he and his wife, Andi, moved to Georgia where he practiced law with his Dad, until his death in 2005. They moved back to Rochester in 2006 where he opened a solo practice that included work as a public defender. Lee was elected to the bench in November 2008 and re-elected in 2012 and 2016.
Judge Lee and his wife, who is an office manager at a retail interior store, have three children and two grandchildren. Wilson is a senior at Indiana University studying business management, sales, and entrepreneurship; Rhett is a third year law student at IU McKinney School of Law and a 2nd Lieutenant in the Indiana Army National Guard and is married to Natalie, a Family Support Specialist with Healthy Families; and Hannah Bahney is a graduate of IU with a degree in journalism. Hannah and her husband Alex have two daughters, Marlee and Amelia.
Judge Lee currently serves as a member of the Domestic Relations Committee of the Judicial Conference of Indiana and is a former member of the Juvenile Justice Improvement Committee.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up in Macon, Georgia, and enjoyed long, hot summers riding bikes with my brothers and friends. We liked to fish and hunt. I started playing football in grade school and continued through high school. Coach Wilson would ride on the blocking sled, chewing a gigantic wad of leaf tobacco, and yell “DRIVE SON!”I often think folks could use that sort of motivation.
What prompted you to study law?
My dad practiced law in Macon, Georgia, where, as a kid, I would join him and his lawyer pals for breakfast. I enjoyed their banter and debating the issues of the day. Too small for college football, I wanted to be Rambo and enrolled in a military college, the University of North Georgia. My military career dreams ended when I broke my leg in 12 places playing combat frisbee. I transferred to the University of Georgia and graduated with a Political Science degree.Then it was, “open a bait shop” or “go to law school!”
What is the most challenging and most rewarding aspect of being a judge?
Dealing with Fulton County’s methamphetamine crises and searching for the right combination of tools to break the chains of addiction is the most challenging aspect of my job. The explosion of self-represented litigants also presents unique and frustrating challenges.
Bringing peace to a difficult domestic relations case is a rewarding part of my job. I also enjoy committee work and always return from meetings a little smarter and humbled by my dedicated, smart, and enthusiastic fellow judges.
What profession would you choose outside of the law?
Strength and conditioning coach or high school football coach.
Do you have any hobbies or favorite leisure activities?
I like fishing. When I was a kid, my brother and I caught a big catfish on a cane pole. We took our prize to Grandma Edna—all 95 pounds of her—and stared, wide-eyed, as she nailed the catfish’s head to a tree and removed its skin with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Thereafter, we remembered to use “ma’am” when we addressed her.
I also like lifting weights and enjoy the primitive simplicity of moving a heavy object from point A to point B. I love to watch college football. It is king in the South, and I was born into a Georgia Bulldog family. We typically make at least one game a year, and game day is a sacred tradition in our home.
Who do you most admire?
I admire people who are authentic, passionate, and above all–kind. The person I admire most is my wife, Andi. She is simply the finest person I know.
Favorite saying or quote?
“All I’ve got is a red guitar, three chords, and the truth.” This line was added by Bono in U2’s cover of Bob Dylan’s song, “All Along the Watchtower.”
“I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.” Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Player Piano.
What books would make your recommended reading list?
The Stand, by Steven King, when you need clarity as to the good guys and bad guys. The Long Walk, by Slavomir Rawicz, and Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand, when you’re feeling sorry for yourself or want to give up. Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall, and even though I’m not a runner, I love this book. And, Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, if you are thinking of escaping parenting disputes and “living in a van down by the river.”
Where is your getaway spot, a place where you like to relax?
Andi and I enjoy Costa Rica in February. The weather is warm, and the people are friendly. Otherwise, we like to hang out with the family at home on the farm.
Fried fish with a side of garlic cheese grits. A close second is fried chicken covered in Louisiana Hot Sauce with collard greens, okra, and flat cornbread.
What are you most looking forward to in the next 10 years?
I’m super proud of my kids and their significant others and look forward to spending time with them. As a grandparent, Amelia and Marlee are a joy, and I hope more are on the way!
What question did we not ask?
I’m really proud to be a member of Indiana’s Judicial Family and to serve with many talented and dedicated judicial officers. I’m grateful for the leadership, support, and approachability of our Supreme Court as well as the kind souls at the Indiana Office of Court Services.