GREENFIELD — Scott Sirk sees a courtroom like a baseball diamond.
He’s the umpire, he said, there only to call balls and strikes, while the attorneys play their game. The prosecutors, the defense lawyers, they step up to the bench like batters to the plate. Sirk is there to watch, to make sure everything stays fair.
The former court commissioner who was sworn in as Hancock Circuit Court judge Saturday said he’s tried to carry an air of fairness with him throughout his legal career, and he’ll continue to as he begins his new job.
Sirk has served as commissioner for Hancock County courts for the past eight years. Prior to that, he worked in the Hancock County Prosecutor’s Office, as a public defender and a part-time commissioner in Hamilton County.
Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed Sirk to the bench last week to fill the remaining year of Judge Richard Culver’s term.
Sirk was officially sworn in Saturday and took the bench Monday morning.
It was actually Culver, who retired in October, who taught Sirk to think of baseball every time he tossed on the robe and took the bench, Sirk said.
The two worked side by side for years, and Sirk learned from Culver it’s equally important to consider what is fair and legal when serving in a judicial slot. Be compassionate. Do what’s right.
The void Culver – who served for nearly three decades on the bench in Hancock Circuit Court – left behind is a big one to fill, Sirk said. So, he won’t try to be Culver’s replacement; instead he’ll pave a path of his own while working to live up to the old friend’s legacy.
The county’s three judges will now make a recommendation to the Board of Commissioners on who to hire as the new court commissioner to replace Sirk. Sirk said he plans to run in May to be the Republican nominee for Hancock Circuit Court judge in the 2018 election.
Sirk earned a bachelor’s degree from Ball State University before heading to the Indiana University McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. He graduated with his law degree in 1988, and took a job the next year as a law clerk in what is now Allan Wellman McNew Harvey, a Greenfield firm.
He worked as a public defender and in family law until 2002, when he took a position in the county prosecutor’s office, working as Larry Gossett’s chief deputy for four years.
He left the prosecutor’s office in 2007 and briefly work for Greenfield law firm Brand and Morelock before going into private practice.
In 2009, Sirk was chosen to serve as the county’s court commissioner, a position he’s held for the last eight years. The position gave him the same power as any elected judge, and he often filled in for the sitting judges at various hearings.
The job prepared him in many ways to take on the bench full time, Sirk said. He learned a lot about the community and the troubles its residents face, he said.
Prosecutor Brent Eaton said Sirk’s appointment to the bench helps to ensure continuity in the local courthouse.
Like his predecessor, Sirk believes it’s important for judges to use their power to help others better themselves, and he’s supportive of treatment programs, such as the county’s heroin protocol and drug court, Eaton said.
Having someone familiar with those initiatives step into the role of circuit court judge should only help the programs grow and thrive, Eaton said.
Sirk lives in New Palestine with his wife, Diane. He has three children, Kate, Scott and Michael.