Hammond judge starts at 'baseline of nothing'

Amy Jorgensen might become a swell judge for the Hammond City Court now that she's got the gavel. I might be a good neurosurgeon this Thursday if you give me the chance. Put me in, coach. I can do it.

Plus, everybody needs a hobby. Now Jorgensen's hobby is sending criminals to prison. Or it might be sending innocent people to prison. Let's hope she gets the hang of this judge thing for all concerned.


As part of VicePresident-elect and sort-of-Gov. Mike Pence's plan to employ amateurs in their preferred hobby, he flipped the large flapping bird at Hammond Mayor Tom McDermott en route to Washington and deposited a parting carpetbagger on Hammond's doorstep.

He left Jorgensen.


The vetting process and career assessment for Jorgensen to decide hundreds of civil and criminal cases for the next three years seems to be mostly that she raised her hand and indicated she'd like the job, as she did in January when she became St. John's Republican chair.

"I'm starting really at the baseline of nothing," she told reporters then.

Pence's response to her sudden stealthy affection for jurisprudence was "okie-dokie" although other candidates had actual legal resumes. Longtime City Judge Jeffrey Harkin died in April. The Indiana Supreme Court appointed Gerald Kray until Pence picked Jorgensen.

Normally, before anyone assumes a senior judgeship, there's discussion of experience, demonstrated legal talent, academic expertise and aptitude for judge stuff.

Successfully scaling these various standards does not guarantee a judge will be wise or prudent. Despite all safeguards, some turn out to be dunderhead dorks with a mean streak.

On the other hand, Jorgensen's only credentials seem to be that she's hometown GOP chair in St. John because no one else wanted to help her husband get elected councilman.

She graduated from the Valparaiso University Law School 18 years ago but never practiced, except perhaps talking to herself when she owned seven commercial Sylvan Learning Centers in the Chicago area, and then sold them.

What she apparently has is lots of money. That works just fine for many hobbies.


Operating a Sylvan Learning Center does not actually qualify a person to call herself an educator any more than operating a McDonald's qualifies the owner as a chef. Or painting replicas of Campbell's soup cans makes you Andy Warhol.

As Sylvan points out in its super-secret Financial Disclosure Document, you must give them lots of money. That's the vetting process.

"The total investment necessary to begin operation of a Sylvan and SylvanSync business is $159,921 to $282,213," the franchise prospectus says. "This includes $56,250 to $62,250 that must be paid to us or an affiliate."

Sylvan suggests no one sign to operate one center without at least $250,000 in net assets.

Sylvan does not require a franchisee possess any experience or knowledge about education other than a general understanding of what a child is, and what a desperate and motivated parent with a checkbook is. This is a pay-per-hour business.

The new gig Jorgensen landed pays her about $80,000 a year and comes with robes.


We wish her well.

Everybody needs a hobby.

David Rutter was an editor for 40 years a six newspapers.