A life dedicated to service: Meet Judge Lorenzo Arredondo

| October 31, 2016
"Being invited by the president of the United States to the White House is a great honor--something that I will always cherish."--Judge Lorenzo Arredondo (right), commenting on meeting President Barack Obama

“Being invited by the president of the United States to the White House is a great honor–something that I will always cherish.”–Judge Lorenzo Arredondo (right), commenting on meeting President Barack Obama

FORT WAYNE—Judge Lorenzo Arredondo will tell you he’s been blessed in so many aspects of his life, including in his career as a public servant.  He’s been a dedicated teacher who has taught at every level; he’s been a pioneering lawyer who, after winning a scholarship to attend law school at the University of San Francisco, co-founded the Hispanic National Bar Association; in Indiana, he’s been a deputy prosecutor and county judge before winning five terms as an acclaimed Lake Circuit judge. After leaving the bench, he created a nonprofit civic education program for students and community groups. And, in each of those positions of service, Judge Arredondo has garnered praise from his colleagues and the community.

Arredondo, by all accounts, has done more than enough to have earned a peaceful retirement but service is in his blood. Helping others is a value his parents, Miguel and Maria Arredondo instilled in him early in life so Lorenzo isn’t ready to quit serving. That’s why he’s running for attorney general of the state of Indiana in the upcoming Nov. 8 General Election.

According to Arredondo, too many of today’s candidates are running for an office such as attorney general to further their own political careers rather than to serve the people.

“It has become a launching pad for young, ambitious politicians who see themselves as a future governor, senator or congressman,” said Arredondo.

And, in that climate in which the office of attorney general has become a high-profile position for aspiring career politicians, not enough has been done to make people aware of the importance of the office, he said, and that must change. For example, while many have the impression that the attorney general serves the governor and state government, Arredondo said that far from the position’s true purpose.

“The attorney general’s office is supposed be the lawyer for the people, the advocate for the people,” he said. “I just want to bring it back to what it’s supposed to be and help the people and protect all of our citizens, whether it’s the seniors or the young or all the community at large.

“I have no political agenda. I want to bring it back to be an advocate for the people.”

He said many people do seem to know about the consumer protection and advocacy duties of the attorney general’s office but the attorney general’s office has other important duties.

“Most people know about the criminal appellate unit that all felonies must be appealed to the Indiana Court of Appeals. Then you also have the tax division, you have the

unclaimed property division and you also have the victim’s assistance unit. So there are various different parts of the attorney general’s office.

Arredondo said that a long-time judge, he would bring a unique perspective to the position.

“I’ve demonstrated the skills and temperament to see all sides of issues—regardless of what kind of case—and make a fair decision,” he explained.

As a former educators, Arredondo said he also well suited for another aspect of the job.

“Many people don’t know the attorney general also must represent judges when they get sued and teachers and school districts when they get sued. I have been a judge, I have been a teacher. I have a master’s degree in secondary education,” said Arredondo who has at every level from kindergarten to high school and adult education and even taught judges as part of the faculty at the National Judicial College in Reno, Nevada, teaching judges from all over the world.

“That puts me in a unique position because I understand the role of a judge, I understand the challenges they face and what the teachers are going through and the importance of our educational system and the challenges teacher face,” he said.

Arredondo said he was compelled to run for Indiana Attorney General for a number of reasons.

“Number one, it’s supposed to be the people’s lawyer. I want to bring it back to what it’s supposed to be, the attorney and advocate for the people—all the people of Indiana.

“Secondly, as your attorney general,  I am not going to waste my time or taxpayers’ money, spending millions of dollars of taxpayers money on lawsuits that you cannot defend and you cannot win, paying millions of dollars in attorneys’ fees. That’s not going to happen on my watch,” said Arredondo.

For example, he said a number of state attorneys general have been involved in filing lawsuits against portions of the Affordable Care Act or fighting gay marriage after the U.S. Supreme Court has made rulings determining those laws or portions of them the law of the land. He also said filing suit against the relocation of Syrian refugees represented another frivolous legal action on the part of states do not have the power to set foreign policy.

Arredondo said once something is law, it is not the attorney general’s role to fight that. That, he said is a legislative battle and that he does not believe in pandering and wasting money on political posturing just because it benefit someone’s political campaign.

“The attorney general is not the governor’s lawyers—he’s the people’s lawyer,” said Arredondo, explaining that the attorney general can advise the governor but serves the people.

Plus, he said, if you’re going to take federal money, there are laws that must be obeyed.

On the other hand, he pointed to the suits against tobacco companies that resulted in settlements that have been devoted to improving healthcare in various states as an appropriate legal action attorneys general should take.

Arredondo’s third priority is doing something about the proliferation of meth labs and the alarming rise in heroin and other opioid addiction in Indiana.

“That has to be a priority because it’s affecting every Hoosier,” he said.

Unfortunately, he said a lot of people have the attitude of “they’re addicted. That’s their problem. Who cares?” Arredondo, however, cited a study by the Indiana Department of Health showing that one in five babies in the state are born addicted to drugs. Arrendo said it takes hundreds of thousands of dollars to detox those babies—often, taxpayers’ dollars.

Furthermore, he said studies indicate that in 40 of Indiana’s 92 counties, women age 24 and younger are dying at an accelerated rate due in part to drugs.

Arredondo said these babies are victims; young women are victims and taxpayers are victims. But, unlike some politicians who like to talk tough about cracking down on drugs and building more prisons, Arredondo is in the same camp as his longtime friend, outgoing Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller. Like Zoeller, Arredondo said he believes education and community involvement on all levels are the key to solving the problem of drug addiction in Indiana. That involves educating doctors, who prescribe pain medication that sometimes can lead people to fall into addiction; educating families whose loved ones are addict, educating police and prosecutors who the resulting crime from drug addiction on how best to institute preventative rather than just punitive measures to combat the problem; educating educators to see signs of problems and to help develop programs to steer young people away from drugs. He said it will take a holistic and not simplistic approach to solve the problem.

“We’re losing too many lives,” said Arredondo saying that the problem is affecting people of all ages, races and income levels in Indiana.

And, he said we have to get away from focusing too much emphasis on incarceration and enforcement as opposed to education and treatment.

“We can’t afford more prisons—that’s not solving the human problem,” said Arredondo.

ag can advise the governor. but one little piece.

He did say that progress is being made relating that when current Attorney General Zoeller started holding symposiums to address the issue so years ago, less than 100 people attended. At this year’s symposium—Zoeller’s seventh—Arredondo said there were 925 people attending.

“He has started on a path. If i have the opportunity to succeed him, I’ll continue,” said Arredondo.

Arredondo said if elected attorney general, he also will make the office more easily accessible to all people. For example, he said he’s heard a number of senior citizens—a segment of the population that should be a priority for the attorney general—complain about how difficult it is to get information through today’s automated office phone systems or to travel to Indianapolis to meet with officials from the attorney general’s office. Arredondo plans to have representatives from the office travel out into the community on a regular basis and hold readily accessible forums for people to express their concerns.

“People are hurting, especially the elderly the most vulnerable,” he said. “They want someone to listen. People want to talk to a person. They don’t want talk to a machine.”

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Category: Consumer, Courts and Justice, Government, Politics

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Frost Illustrated is Fort Wayne's oldest weekly newspaper. Your Independent Voice in the Community, featuring news & views of African Americans since 1968.

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