Valparaiso University Law School’s commemoration of Veteran’s Day 2013 was spearheaded by students and alumni. Current and former members of the Valparaiso University Veterans Law Association (MVLA) led efforts to acknowledge students, alumni, faculty and staff who have served or are serving our country. The group started at the beginning of November with posting a board of photos in the hallway of Wesemann Hall. They also hosted a “Pets for Vets” 5K Run/Walk which promoted the “Help a Vet Get a Pet” program. The program raises funds to pay for the adoption fee of veterans who desire to adopt a pet and partners with trainers so that a dog can be trained to aid veterans with PTSD. MVLA raised $544 from the 5K to benefit the program.
The Honorable Judge Julia Jent
Well respected and known throughout Porter Co. Indiana, The Honorable Julia Jent is the Presiding Judge over Porter County Superior Court’s Veterans Treatment and Drug Court programs. As a veteran herself, Judge Jent runs the social justice driven Veteran’s Treatment Court with heart, determination and one of the best legal minds in the area. The Valparaiso Law Alumnus has a fascinating history as was revealed during her interview with VULS student and veteran, Joseph Musselman. Surrounding MVLA’s celebration of Veteran’s Day 2013, some local alumni found it fitting to recognize a fellow alumnus who is committed to rehabilitation efforts for U.S. veterans.
Joseph: What is your experience with the military?
Judge Jent: I was in the Army in the mid 1960’s. I met my husband in the military and was discharged shortly after getting married and becoming pregnant. The Army was very different towards women then.
Joseph: How did you decide to come to Valparaiso Law for school?
Judge Jent: Well, initially, I thought I wanted to do medicine. While in the Army, I discovered medicine wasn’t for me. I was a High School dropout who earned my G.E.D., but I started at Valparaiso Law as a very non-traditional student. I only applied because Valparaiso was promoting a program to diversify the Law School. Ironically, I became one of the charter members of the VU Hispanic Association even though I’m not Hispanic! But, they needed charter members and I was a minority, so it worked at the time. In addition to being a non-traditional student, I had very young children at the time; four of them to be exact, with ages ranging from 2 ½- 8 ½. But my husband was very supportive. Support during Law School is very important. He worked full time and took care of the children.
Joseph: How did you shape your career following Law School?
Judge Jent: I knew I wanted to be a judge out of Law School. And I accomplished that goal shortly after. I was a Circuit Court Judge two years out of Law School. Eventually, the Mayor of Gary, Karen Freeman Wilson, influenced me to try Drug Court. I was appointed in Porter County after another Valparaiso Law Alumnus, Judge Mary Harper and have presided over Veterans Treatment and Drug Court in Porter County since 2011.
Joseph: Why do you work in these social justice program courts?
Judge Jent: I think problem solving courts make so much sense. It would be hard to tell someone to go this direction coming directly out of Law School because you need to take a job that pays and then look for something you want to work in after you’ve had some time to establish your career. These programs need funding and there maybe legislation passed soon so there is government funding to keep these types of programs going. We will always need some level of incarceration incorporated into our systems. But, we are moving away from punishment for punishment’s sake. We are drilling down to what’s causing the issues. ‘Why are you breaking the law? What are your issues? Obviously, going to jail isn’t helping; how can we get you rehabilitation and help so you won’t continue to do bad things?’ We should incorporate the rehabilitation programming that we do in Veterans Treatment and Drug court into our penal system. I believe problem solving courts are the courts of the future.
Joseph: What legacy would you like to leave behind?
Judge Jent: I would hope that these problem solving courts be so well established in Porter County that the next judge appointed cannot get rid of it.