Chamber Discussions

Judge Loyd hangs up his robes

By Glenda Winders

Judge K. Mark Loyd’s stately chambers on the second floor of the Johnson County Courthouse look pretty much as they did when he arrived there in 1994, but he has made a few changes. The dumbwaiter that used to bring up files from the floors below now serves as a closet for his black robes, and he uses the steps that once led to a private exit for storage. The biggest change of all, however, is that now stacks of paper cover every surface in the room as he sorts through his files and prepares to leave office at the end of this year.

Loyd was elected in 1994 after working as the chief deputy prosecutor and a magistrate. Since that election he has run unopposed on every ballot, and his career has been one filled with accomplishments, accolades and positive changes to the court system. But it wasn’t the career he set out to pursue.

“I didn’t really want to be a judge,” he says. “It was just happenstance.”

Loyd had been working as the chief deputy prosecutor and had good relationships with all of the judges at that time. When a new position as a magistrate opened up, they lobbied him to accept it.

“I thought it was a good opportunity because it gave me a chance to see if I liked judging before I ran for election,” he says. “It’s a leap of faith as to whether you’re going to fit the robe. Just because you’re a good litigator and advocate doesn’t necessarily translate into a good judge. It’s not a job for everybody.”

Before that, he wasn’t even sure he wanted to be an attorney. “I fell into law just like I fell into judging,” he says.

His parents wanted him to become a dentist, but one of his interests was wildlife, so after graduating from Franklin College he persuaded them that a master’s degree in biology and natural resources from Ball State University would look good on his application to dental school. There he heard a speaker comment on the need for lawyers with science backgrounds because of cases such as those involving the environment, and he was hooked. He was accepted by the dental school to which he had applied, but instead he headed for the University of Dayton School of Law.

“I suppose it was the right thing to do,” he says. “I’ve always enjoyed working with the court officers, and it felt like my staff and I were helping make a difference, that we were making positive calls for individuals and families and accomplishing things.”

One of the things he accomplished was creating the position of court administrator, that is, a person who could assist with such chores as writing grants, drafting local rules, organizing, purchasing and dealing with changing computer systems that judges don’t have time to do.

“The perception is that we spend a lot of time golfing and sitting around reading the Wall Street Journal with our feet up,” he says. “But with the caseloads so high, it takes a lot of stamina to do this job.”

New systems

Loyd also looks back proudly on his part in making Johnson County a pilot county for the family court system. If a family has multiple cases on the docket, they are all heard by a single judge. In this way, a family has to miss less work and pay fewer baby sitters, and they can count on a more consistent outcome. He is also proud of the growth of the Court Appointed Special Advocate program, a group of 60 to 75 volunteers appointed to advocate for children in cases involving divorce, guardianship or Children in Need of Services.

“When I came in, it was loose and informal,” he says, “but we made it much more structured and professional so that individuals have the strength to actually advocate for the children in their care.”

He partnered with Judge Cynthia Emkes in creating the alternate dispute resolution program, which provides mediation, arbitration and private judging in the hope litigants in civil disputes will solve their own problems and lower the caseload. The pair also created the alcohol and drug program for the county.

“Right now, when we have our opiate epidemic going on, what would we do without that program to assist us in triaging these people to a rehabilitative program that makes sense?” he says.

Emkes recently retired after being the longest-serving judge and the first female judge in Johnson County. She has known Loyd since 1990, so she has a pretty good idea about how he operates.

“He’s a remarkable man, both professionally and personally,” she says, “and I’m thankful and proud to have worked with him and for the opportunities I’ve had to collaborate with him. As a judge, he’s everything most people expect – fair, impartial, diligent, efficient, knowledgeable, honest and confident. He’s a compassionate leader both in and out of the courtroom.”

For a couple of years, Loyd was chairman of the Judges Alternative Dispute Resolution Committee, which created the first parenting coordination rules for divorced couples in Indiana. He also supervises adult probation, juvenile probation, the guardian ad litem program, the juvenile court and the juvenile detention center. 

“Johnson County has one of the top juvenile detention facilities in Indiana,” he says. “We can handle anything from minimum security to maximum security for detainees. We have a full school program, so they don’t miss their education, mental health and other treatment providers, and our programming is some of the best.”

He says that thanks to the arbitration and mediation programs in place, he hears far fewer jury trials than he did in years past, but he has fond memories of working with jurors.

“The vast majority of the jurors over the years have been terrifically satisfying. They get it right,” he says. “It’s not like TV or what they expect, and they try hard to follow the law and do their job.”

Other contributions

Outside the courtroom Loyd’s accomplishments have included teaching family and criminal law at Franklin College, IUPUI and Ivy Tech. He has also served on the board of Adult and Child Mental Health as well as a children’s justice task force committee, the Drug Task Force of Johnson County and a number of judicial committees. He was state chairman of Ducks Unlimited. But he says much of the credit for what he has been able to do goes to his staff.

“I’ve been real, real lucky,” he says. “What people see is me sitting on the bench, but the staff is really the internal drive that turns out the product for the public’s consumption, and most of them have been with me forever.”

One of those is court reporter Georgenia Rogers, who came with him from the prosecutor’s office.

“Judge Loyd is someone I have always looked up to and have been proud to call my employer,” she says. “I can’t imagine that there are very many judges in this state who are more respected than he is, which is evident by the many judges, lawyers, departments, employees and individuals who are daily contacting him seeking counsel, recommendations and advice. He has been the go-to person for the Johnson County Courthouse, and he will be missed.”

Loyd also credits his family for his success. His wife, Renee, is retired from Women, Infants and Children, a food and nutrition service. Son Harrison and his wife have a new baby daughter, and daughter Kimber has two sons, one a senior at Franklin College. 

“Judging’s tough on a family,” Loyd says. “You hear cases all week long, so the only time to do the research and writing the job requires is evenings and weekends. And I regularly get phone calls requesting search warrants at 3 or 4 in the morning that I’ve got to get up and take care of. My family has put up with a lot.”

They’ve also had to deal with occasional threats, but while he takes these situations seriously, he hasn’t let them get in the way of what he felt he had to do.

“I asked for this job,” he says. “And that’s part of it.”

After he steps down from the bench he hopes to pursue more of the pastimes he enjoys – hunting and fishing, golfing and taking in some Indy car races. But since he is still a couple of years shy of being able to retire officially, he also plans to take another full-time job.

“It will be in some capacity of the law: mediation or other alternate dispute resolution, private judging or arbitration,” he says. “Something that involves solving problems and finding solutions. That’s what judges do.”

Photography by Angela Jackson