by Kathryn Dolan, Chief Public Information Officer • Office of Communication, Education & Outreach
This is the sixty-second Court Times article highlighting a member of the Indiana Judiciary.
Marla Clark was elected to Johnson Superior Court 4 in 2014. A central Indiana kid, she made her way to the southwest for school at the University of Houston and returned home to complete her formal education at the IU Maurer School of Law. She served as a juvenile magistrate for ten years before being elected the first judge of Superior Court 4.
What was your childhood like?
My wonderful parents raised me and my two younger brothers in Indianapolis and Greenwood. I graduated valedictorian of Center Grove High School where I was voted “Most Likely to Become a Judge” by my high school classmates! I went to college on a National Merit Scholarship, where I earned a degree in finance. After that, I attended Maurer School of Law where I received the Michael Maurer Scholarship for Public Service. My first day on the bench was as a pro tem—it was September 12, 2001. Needless to say, everyone had other things on their mind that day, but court went on.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job and what brings you joy?
The most challenging aspect of my job is that there are limited resources to fill great needs. Sometimes I have an idea for an intervention that a person in front of me needs, but there isn’t any way to provide it. So many of the people that my court serves need mental health and addiction services, housing, financial assistance, social support, and transportation, and most of those needs go unmet. I keep a folder in my desk of notes and pictures that people have sent me over the years that make me smile. I like to read a few of them on days when I need to be reminded that we do make a difference.
What career would you choose if you weren’t already in this field?
I’d like to work for a not-for-profit that supports people escaping poverty. Poverty and its hopelessness are contributing factors to crime, substance abuse, child neglect, and many other issues that we deal with as judges. The judicial system deals with these issues after the harm has already occurred. I’d like to be able to address the contributing cause to prevent the harm instead.
Do you have a favorite hobby?
I really enjoy traveling. It’s so interesting to see how people in other areas live—what their homes look like, what their daily life is like. I always learn so much. I’ve been to beautiful and interesting places like Italy, Aruba, Albania, and Belize. Traveling requires you to be resourceful to accomplish what you want to do in an unfamiliar environment. It’s humbling to have to figure out how to order food or take public transportation when there’s a language barrier.
Where is your getaway spot, a place where you like to relax?
We’ve vacationed in Florida ever since my kids were little. The view of boats going by against the sunset over the Gulf of Mexico is one of the best. Boating, being on the water, enjoying the outdoors with friends and a good book, is really relaxing.
What’s your favorite meal, place to eat, or recipe? Why?
Summer is my favorite time of the year. When it warms up in May, I have a “Kickoff to Summer” party on the patio for my family and friends. We have a crab boil with potatoes and corn, with strawberries and ice cream and key lime pie for dessert. It’s a great way to celebrate summer.
Do you have any advice for your colleagues?
Retired Court of Appeals Judge James Kirsch—who was my boss for eight years—used to say: “Don’t ever let your first name become Judge.” I’m sure most of my colleagues have this same experience, where people you know professionally stop using your given name. I think what he meant by that is that being a judge is what we do, and it is monumentally important, but it isn’t who we are. We are still mothers and brothers and community members with passions, interests and talents apart from our jobs. So work hard, do your best, and never stop improving as a judicial officer, but also nurture and make time for the other aspects of who you are and what you can offer to the world.