Cornell sworn in to Superior Court post

Superior Court Judge Amy Cornell adjusts her robe after her mother and father, Merle and Judy Conner, helped to put it on her. Looking on are Judge Cornell's husband, the Rev. Jonathan Cornell (second from right) and Chief Justice Emeritus Brent Dickson who administered the oath. Photos by Joseph Slacian

By Joseph Slacian

Amy Catherine Cornell became the third Wabash County Superior Court judge in history Wednesday afternoon, Nov. 29, during a brief ceremony before a standing-room-only crowd in the Superior Courtroom.

“This is a big day for Wabash County and Wabash Circuit and Superior courts and the Wabash County Bar Association,” Circuit Court Judge Robert McCallen III said, greeting the crowd. “I am personally very excited to begin a new partnership with Judge Cornell, and to continue the work of the courts.

“Wabash is a unique community. We work together as a team and all across the board to act in the best interest of our community and society. I know Judge Cornell has been, and will continue to be a team player. She will continue her contribution to our community, now wearing a robe.

“The work of the court is significant and important,” McCallen continued. “Though smaller in population than many counties across Indiana, our work load is substantially more than most, and we do our work with less staff as well. I’m proud of our ability to do so much and so efficiently. I know Judge Cornell will likewise take pride in carrying out the work in front of her with the same efficiency.”

After Cornell’s husband, Pastor Jonathon Cornell of the Wabash Presbyterian Church, gave the invocation, the couple’s son, Christian, serenaded his mother with a hymn.

Cornell received the oath of office from Chief Justice Emeritus Brent Dickson while friends, family members and members of the Wabash County Bar Association looked on.

After she received the oath, Dickson told the crowd that Cornell asked her parents, Merle and Judy Conner, to present her with her robe of office. It was, he said, a way “of honoring them for their love, their sacrifice, and their influence on her whole life.”

Following the robe ceremony, Cornell thanked the crowd for attending. She also introduced several friends and family members in attendance.

“It is so incredible to look out and see so many family members from far and near here,” she said.

She thanked the Wabash County Bar Association members for their help after she was appointed to the post. She also thanked the members of the Wabash Presbyterian Church, whom, she said, “have walked along beside Jonathon and I through every hill and every valley the past six years.”

She also told the story about a ring she was wearing that once belonged to her paternal grandmother.

“She was forced to quit school in the fourth grade when her mother died,” Cornell said. “She had to raise her three brothers. Shortly after that, she had nine children of her own.

“They were raised in a refurbished chicken coop, a tarpaper shack. My father hadn’t read a book when he graduated high school. But when my mother and father got together, they gave their lives to the Lord and they were decisive that their children’s lives would be given back to God. And so, for a man from a blue-collar background, when we were choosing professions, it was either law or medicine.

“My brothers were good at blood and numbers and I was good with words.”

One of her brothers, Dr. David Conner, is a Fort Wayne surgeon, and her other brother, Dr. John Conner, is a Wabash dentist.

Cornell also praised Interim Superior Court Judge Karen Springer for her efforts since July.

“You were the glue that held the Superior Court staff together since July 10,” Cornell said of Springer. “Humility and kindness go a long way on the bench and in life. Karen, you have never treated this position as if it were a right or an entitlement, but as the high calling it is. Your empathy and pursuit of justice have served the citizens of Wabash County in a myriad of ways.”

She called her a “true judicial sister. You have a home in Wabash County for the rest of your years.”

Cornell was named to the post in October by Gov. Eric Holcomb. She replaces Justice Chris Goff, who was named to the Indiana Supreme Court in June by Holcomb.

Cornell is the third Wabash County Superior Court judge and the first woman to hold the post. In addition to Goff, Michael Sposeep also sat on the Superior Court bench. It was during Sposeep’s tenure that the Superior Court was created, replacing what was until then Wabash County Court.

Following the ceremony, Cornell told The Paper of Wabash County that it was “a wonderful celebration of the community of Wabash County.”

“It was standing room only in here, and it wasn’t because of me,” she continued. “It was because of how dedicated the people of this community are not only to law enforcement, but to the judicial system in this whole process.

“The community bands together in ways that are not like any other that we have come into contact with.”

Posted on 2017 Dec 05