Montgomery County Superior Court II Judge Peggy Lohorn was praised for changing the lives of military veterans and firmly, but fairly, handing down justice to criminals as her nearly two decades on the bench draws to a close.
Local attorneys joined Lohorn’s fellow judges on the grounds of the Gen. Lew Wallace Study & Museum on Wednesday afternoon for a reception honoring her legal career. Lohorn, who was first elected in 2002 after a long stint in the prosecutor’s office, is retiring at the end of the year.
“She has been a quiet pillar in this community,” said Rob Reimondo, president of the Montgomery County Bar Association. “A lot of people don’t realize… all the work that goes in to being a judge, and she’s handled it with a lot of aplomb and a steady hand the entire 18 years.”
As gusts of wind blew leaves across the general’s foliage-speckled old writing place, lawyers shared memories of sitting at the defense table while she served as the chief deputy prosecutor and waiting for her verdicts once she presided over the courtroom.
One of Reimondo’s clients nervously replied “guilty” after Lohorn asked him to state his name at the beginning of a hearing. Years earlier, Kurt Homann’s singing Christmas tie interrupted a sentencing hearing after Lohorn had finished passionately delivering her closing arguments.
“My client didn’t go to prison, didn’t get jail time out of that — maybe because of the tie,” Homann joked.
After being elected to the bench, Lohorn oversaw the implementation of the county’s Veterans Treatment Court. The program allows former military personnel in the criminal justice system to avoid jail time by staying sober, undergoing mental health treatment and holding down housing and a job.
The Indiana Supreme Court touted Montgomery County’s program and Lohorn has gained recognition among other judges for her work on the cases.
“Whenever she’s speaking in public about it and someone says, ‘Oh, that sounds great, thank you for doing that,’ she immediately goes, ‘No, it’s the team. They are the ones who get it done. I’m just part of the team,’” said deputy prosecutor Aaron Spolarich, a team member.
Spolarich highlighted success stories from the program, which the two attorneys running to succeed Lohorn have expressed support for continuing.
“You’ve told me your legacy is the Veterans Treatment Court. I’m going to quibble with that a little bit,” Spolarich said, turning to Lohorn. “Your legacy is not the Veterans Treatment Court, your legacy is those lives.”
Andrew Salter, a U.S. Navy veteran who now holds Lohorn’s old job in the prosecutor’s office, credited her for helping inspire his career as an attorney. Sarah Houston Dicks thanked Lohorn for treating her clients, as well as the attorneys, with respect and kindness.
Lohorn is popular in state legal circles, as Montgomery Circuit Court Judge Harry Siamas noted in his remarks.
“She’s been a great mentor to me, shown me many kindnesses as a judge,” he said.
As she thanked her colleagues, Lohorn recalled lessons from her father that she said guided her time in office.
“I think if you lead your life being respectable — being respectful to people and being responsible, then you can lead a successful life, and there isn’t anything you can’t do,” she said.