Pulaski County Circuit Judge Michael Shurn visited the University of Indianapolis on Nov. 5 to speak at the Judicial Lecture Series. The Pre-Law Student Association invited Shurn to discuss his role as a judge, as well as the roles he plays in his community.
Assistant Professor of History & Political Science David Root, an advisor for the PLSA, contacted Shurn after hearing that he had received the 2018 Education for Service Award. This award recognizes alumni for their work of pursuing a life exploring and fulfilling UIndy’s motto of Education for Service. Root said he was looking for a variety of judges so that PLSA could be given a more well-rounded outlook for the Judicial Series.
“I am recruiting different types of judges to come in and talk and offer their experiences and insights,” Root said. “And so when I got the chance to meet him, it presented an opportunity to ask him to come and speak.”
Root asked Shurn if he would speak with some of the members of PLSA before the lecture began and share some of his experiences from his work in the education system. According to Root, Shurn discussed school, ranging from undergraduate to law school.
“I sat there nodding my head to a lot of these things [Shurn’s experiences],” Root said. “We’ve [PLSA] talked about these things but it was good for them to hear it from somebody else.”
Shurn discussed the multiple programs he created to not only help children in school, but also provide support to troubled kids. However, Shurn said that due to lack of funding most of the local programs that he created have been shut down. Shurn did not run for reelection, therefore, his term as a Pulaski County judge will end in December.
“You don’t want to end up in the land of the lost, so I’m looking,” Shurn said. “I might want to teach a little bit, work with the church and be a senior judge.”
During the lecture, Shurn talked more about his career as a judge and shared some of his favorite cases or ones that he believed were his most interesting. Shurn also shared his difficult journey to law school. After receiving his English degree from UIndy, Shurn applied to law school. However, his plans fell through when his number was picked in the draft for Vietnam.
“I decided to go to law school so I applied for Southern Methodist University School of Law, and I was accepted,” Shurn said. “I went down there in 1971 and got drafted out, got my money back and went to the United States Army.”
After his service, Shurn said he reapplied to law school and later received a Juris Doctorate from Indiana University. Throughout the lecture, Shurn reassured listeners how important it is to build connections with not only colleagues, but also the community around them.
“Every chance to meet somebody, every contact you make, everything you do is an opportunity to open the door to the next thing,” Shurn said.
Sophomore political science major Katrina Hopkins was one of the students who was able to speak with Shurn before the lecture began. Hopkins is a part of PLSA and said that having Shurn at UIndy was an eye opening experience.
“I think that just these experiences are so eye opening,” Hopkins said. “They kind of let you see a glimpse of law and judging that isn’t ‘CSI’ and ‘Law and Order.’”
According to Hopkins, the most important advice any student, even outside pre-law, could gain from this lecture is being able to learn from Shurn’s experiences and listening to his journey of how he got to where he is today.
“It’s important to get real world experience from someone who has done a possible occupation that you want to do,” Hopkins said. “You learn a lot in a classroom but there is no better experience than actually seeing it and getting advice from someone who has seen it.”