James David Grund has made it official to me: He will seek another six-year term as judge of Miami County Superior Court 1.
His announcement — made during a series of email interviews for this column — was no surprise. It became clear during the interviews he would like to spend the rest of his legal career serving as a superior court judge.
That Grund — known as David — has carved out a legal career is no surprise, either. He is a fourth generation member in a family steeped in the practice of law.
“It had been a goal of mine since an early age,” Grund, 43, says when asked when he decided to follow in his father’s footsteps. “That goal was more solidified with my father’s passing.”
He is referring to James H. Grund, who was shot to death at the age of 47 in the family home on Aug. 3, 1992. David’s stepmother at the time, Susan Grund, was tried for and found guilty of murder and is now serving a 60-year sentence.
The Grund legal connection in Miami County is extensive, going back to David’s great-grandfather, Circuit Court Judge Hurd J. Hurst, who was also an Indiana state senator. And the uncle of one of Grund’s grandfathers, Frank Dice, was also judge of the Miami County Circuit Court.
David’s other grandfather, James A. Grund, had served as a deputy prosecutor for Walter Bixler before being elected prosecutor in 1970 and serving two terms.
David’s father, known as Jimmy, had served as a deputy for his dad — David’s grandfather — through most, if not all of his eight years. Following in his father’s footsteps, Jimmy was elected prosecutor in 1978, but he was defeated for re-election by Wil Siders.
Asked if his father’s death affected his goal to be an attorney, David responded: “I would say that it left me with a greater sense of determination due to my loss and the fact that he and I were working on my admittance to law school at the time.”
Grund said he admired his father for several things, including his intelligence, the ability to communicate, and his skill to manage or handle any crisis that might present itself. “He was very calm and capable under pressure,” David added.
The biggest lessons he learned from his father, he said, were “to give everything you have in whatever you do. To treat everyone with respect regardless of the specific situation you may be in.”
I did not know James H. Grund. But based on David’s brief description, I can see some of him in David, who has impressed me as someone who diligently goes about his business, quietly serving Miami County with duty, dedication and decency.
Like his father, David’s mother, Jane, has played a vital role in his life.
“[She] provided a great deal of stability, guidance and advice,” he said when asked about her. “This again increased after my father’s passing. I had just turned 22 years old, had recently graduated from college, and had not started law school.”
His mother, a retired marketing professional, now lives in Culver.
Grund has an older sister, Jama, who studied computer programming at the University of North Carolina. She is married, has three children and lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
Grund said his grandfather, James A., who died Oct. 26, 2012, provided strong reinforcement after his father’s death.
“He kept me on course and assisted me in pursuing my legal career,” Grund said. “As one might imagine, it would have been easy to stray off course, but my mother and grandparents made sure that did not happen with their support.”
Grund was born in Bloomington during the time his father was in law school. The family moved back to Peru when he was a year old.
His path toward a legal career started at Peru High School, from which he was graduated in 1988.
While growing up, he got some “real life” experience, working at a Shell service station and in the kitchen at Wendy’s. In the summer, he toiled at United Technologies and Bryan Steam.
Grund attended Indiana University from 1988-1992, earning a degree in criminal justice, with a minor in sociology. He got his law degree from IU in 1997.
Upon graduation, he served from 1998-2008 as deputy and chief deputy prosecuting attorney, and at the same time was the county attorney. In the prosecutor’s office he tried all levels of felony offense.
In 2007, he entered private practice, working with his grandfather and his father’s law partner, Don Fern. His private practice included family law, civil litigation, business organization, property law, municipal law and estate planning.
He was elected to his Superior Court seat in 2009, defeating incumbent Dan Banina by 34 votes.
Asked what he believes is the toughest part of being a judge, he replied: “The emotional aspect for both myself and litigants in making determinations of the utmost importance in persons’ lives.”
Grund believes the greatest difference between sitting on the bench and practicing law as an attorney is that “conceptually a judge approaches or analyzes legal issues from a completely different vantage point. A judge analyzes a particular issue fairly and impartially, seeing both sides of an issue. An attorney or advocate focuses on his or her client’s individual legal position or strength and presents that single position or argument. …
“In order to fairly adjudicate a particular controversy, one must be able to step back, put himself in the shoes of each litigant, understand their viewpoint along with the basis therefore, and then, and only then, apply the law to the facts and make a fair and impartial determination.”
The conceptual difference between being a judge and practicing law has surprised him the most since donning the robes, he said. He also was surprised initially at how different a judge is perceived by his colleagues and others.
That leads to the question of what has been the most important thing he has learned as a judge.
“I guess I need to know if we are speaking about life as a whole or as a judge,” he says. “However, I think overall I have learned that if you take the time to listen to others, put yourself in their position, and attempt to understand their position, while maybe not agreeing with it, you are able to gain a more objective view and come to a fair resolution of the subject at hand.”
Grund said his weekly workload, hour-wise, varies depending on the schedule of cases in his court. It also depends on whether weekends are involved and whether he gets after-hour calls that require attention.
But, as with others who work in similar jobs, hours and rigid schedules don’t matter much to Grund. What does is liking what you do, which prompts Grund to say:
“Being the judge of Miami Superior Court 1 over the past four and one-half years has been the best, most fulfilling, and rewarding job of my career.”
Asked if he has any heroes, aside from his dad, he replied: “No one specific. I believe those service persons in our military, along with other state and local public service persons who put their lives on the line every day for protection of our country’s citizens, are the heroes to be admired.”
Outside the courtroom, Grund is active in the community. He’s a member of the Peru Rotary Club and serves as executive vice president of the Circus City Festival Inc.
His involvement in judicial organizations includes the Indiana State Bar Association, Indiana Judges Association, Indiana Juvenile Judges Association, Miami County Bar Association and Miami County Community Corrections Advisory Board.
For recreation, Grund likes to read, golf and participate in water sports.
He squeezes in those activities while raising two daughters, Mallori, 9, and Maci, 6, with his wife of 15 years, the former Shawna Lowry. They met through her brother who was a friend of David’s. Shawna is a teacher for Peru Community Schools.
Asked if Mallori and/or Maci could become fifth generation Grunds — and the first distaff members — to join the family business, Grund responded:
“I suppose they could be, but I would encourage them to pursue what interests them and makes them happy.”
A wise decision — from the bench or the kitchen table.
Ray Moscowitz of Bloomington is a retired newspaper executive and former publisher of the Peru Tribune. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.