(LOOGOOTEE) - R. Joseph Howell has announced that he is leaving the Martin County Prosecutor's Office where he has served part-time as Chief Deputy Prosecuting since January 1.
Howell has worked part-time in the prosecutor's office while continuing to practice law in his private office in Loogootee, which he opened in January, 2011.
Howell served as Martin County circuit court judge for 18 years, before deciding not to seek re-election in 2010.
Howell's departure was not unexpected.
When he accepted the position as chief deputy prosecutor, he only committed to working part-time in that office for a period of 6 months, and that period expired June 30th.
Howell also accepted the part-time position with the understanding that he would leave if he decided to run for prosecutor or circuit court judge. Prosecutor is on the ballot in 2014, and Labor Day is the traditional kick off for the next election cycle.
Howell stated that returning to his private practice on a full-time basis makes sense at this time.
"I have been fortunate to attract some very good, loyal clients, and I feel that I need to devote all my time to them," Howell says. "Splitting time between my private practice and the prosecutor's office has spread me very thin."
Howell is devoted to continuing to serve his clients and to developing his private practice.
But, when asked, Howell stated, "Yes, I am seriously considering making an attempt to return to public service full time. I truly enjoy private practice, but my time in the prosecutor's office has caused me to realize how much I miss serving the public. There are so many things that a prosecutor or judge can do for the community if one has the right background, experience, skills, and motivation."
Howell continued, "I have not made any firm decisions whether to run for elected office in 2014 when the office of prosecuting attorney will be on the ballot, but it is definitely something that interests me. And, I think it is very likely that I may toss my hat into the ring once again."
Howell said, "I respect the prosecuting attorney and his staff. I enjoyed working with him when I was circuit court judge, I have enjoyed working for him as chief deputy prosecutor, and I have always respected him as an attorney. But, the prosecutor and I have markedly different approaches to office management and to the overall practice of law. We each have different strengths and weaknesses. Of course, it is human nature for me to believe that my style and ideas are better. I think he would agree that we just have very different ideas about how the prosecutor's office can and should serve the community."
Howell stated that he expects to make a decision regarding a run for prosecutor before the holiday season.
"I have a lot to consider, including whether I might be interested in attempting to regain the position of circuit court judge when the office is open in 2016," Howell said. "I have had many, many people approach me about running for rrosecutor as well as for circuit court judge. I am grateful for their kind words and offers of support. However, running for office affects not only me, but my family, friends, and clients, and I must weigh everything carefully before making such a commitment."
Howell stated that his six-month return to public service as part-time chief deputy prosecutor has had its downsides.
"Being in the prosecutor's office did remind me, and my family, how much we dislike being the subject of rumors and gossip, which was a regular part of my life as Judge from 1993 through 2010. Silly rumors and baseless attacks can be hard upon family and friends," he says.
Howell admits that hearing wild stories about him used to be painfulBut, Howell states that it has become an accepted part of his life.
"After being circuit court judge for 18 years, and practicing law in a small town, I have learned to ignore the wild talk that usually stems from me simply doing my job. And, most people realize that creating and spreading rumors and stories are simply what unhappy people do to deflect attention from themselves. It simply goes with these types of jobs." Howell says. "Despite the petty stuff, I have always found satisfaction in being in public service, because I know that I have performed my professional duties to the best of my ability. Helping people and solving problems mean much more to me than childish gossip. Unfortunately, I cannot serve the public effectively in a parttime position, so I will devote my energies to my private practice full-time while I continue to consider a possible future return to politics."
Howell resides in Loogootee with his wife, Kim. Kim and Joe are parents of 4 of children: Mackenzie, a Senior at IU in Bloomington; Brian, who recently turned 21 and resides at home; Evan, an employee of Loughmiller Machine Tool & Design in Loogootee; and Jared, a Freshman at Vincennes University.
Joe's parents, Bob and Carolyn Howell, reside in Shoals.
Howell's office is located at 200 North John F. Kennedy Avenue in downtown Loogootee.
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