Garza to step in as interim judge for a year in Whitley County

By Dan Spalding
News Now Warsaw

WARSAW — Tony Garza, a longtime local defense attorney in Warsaw, will serve as an interim judge in Whitley County for a year.

Garza said his role as an interim judge is expected to begin in September and that it will require him to close his law office, which he has operated for 14 years.

Garza said he was approached about the opportunity by Whitley Superior Court Judge Douglas Fahl, who is a Lt. Col. in the National Guard and will be deployed overseas for about a year.

The process involves Fahl’s nomination, which is still pending but is expected to be approved.

Garza said they’ve been acquaintances for a long time and the two formerly worked together in the Kosciusko County Prosecutor’s office for several years. He’s also worked in Fahl’s court as a public defender for 12 years.

“I’ll be filling in for him while he serves our country,” Garza said.

Garza, 52, said he sees the new job as a way to learn more about the profession.

“It’s a great opportunity to see the legal practice from a different perspective — from the bench,” Garza said Monday.

He said he also looks forward to experiencing some of the training that the judges receive, which in turn, he said, would benefit him as a practitioner.

Whitley Superior Court handles low-level felonies and misdemeanor, small claims and evictions and divorces that don’t involve children.

Garza has had an interest in being a judge and sought election to Kosciusko County’s Superior Court 3 in 2020.

He said the chance to step in for a judge in these kinds of circumstances is a rare opportunity.

Oddly enough, Kosciusko County Prosecutor Brad Voelz had a similar experience previously for the same judge in 2017, Garza said.

He said he’s unsure what his next move might be after a full year in his new role but expressed confidence because of his background.

“Having a basic knowledge of the law really serves you well with any aspect of life that you choose to pursue,” Garza said.

“Change is good, opportunity’s good, learning something new is good,” Garza said. “I come from here, been from here, been here all my life. Coming back won’t be difficult,” he said.

Garza graduated from law school at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Before that, he received a degree in landscape architecture from Iowa State University, but found the job market at that time to be difficult and decided to go to law school.

Becoming an attorney, he said, “had always been in the back of my mind.”