INDIANAPOLIS | At age 41, Lake County Magistrate Michael Pagano is the youngest of 15 candidates seeking to replace retiring Chief Justice Randall Shepard on the Indiana Supreme Court.
If history is a guide, the Crown Point man's age won't affect his chances of being selected for the state's highest court — Shepard was appointed at age 38.
On Wednesday, Pagano will sit before Shepard and the six other members of the Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission and explain why they should recommend him to Gov. Mitch Daniels for Shepard's seat on the bench.
The Republican governor will appoint the state's 107th justice from among three candidates recommended by the commission later this month.
Based on his 19-page application, Pagano is likely to tell the commission that despite his age there is no harder worker among the Supreme Court applicants.
As magistrate of Lake Superior Court Division 3, Pagano regularly adjudicates civil, criminal and traffic cases in a courtroom that in 2010 processed 13,546 infractions, 4,241 ordinance violations, 1,438 misdemeanors, 416 Class D felonies, 3,783 small claims cases and 1,498 other cases.
Working under Senior Judge Julie Cantrell, Pagano directly manages a staff of six and oversees a total of 27 court employees.
Pagano, who was born in White Plains, N.Y., but has lived in Lake County since 1998, said his willingness to work hard stems from a 1992 summer job selling educational books door to door in upstate New York for 80 hours a week over 10 weeks.
"Up to that point in my life, it was the hardest and most challenging job I had ever taken. It was also a thoroughly character-building experience," Pagano said. "To this day, I attribute my work ethic to what I learned as a book salesman: Success is 90 percent perspiration and 10 percent inspiration."
Pagano earned a bachelor's degree in history in 1992 from DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind., and earned his law degree at New York Law School in 1995.
According to his transcripts Pagano was a solid "B" student, graduating with a 3.04 GPA at DePauw and a 3.0 GPA in law school. His law school GPA ranks sixth among the Supreme Court applicants.
He worked as an associate and later junior partner at Hammond's Funk and Foster law firm until being appointed magistrate in 2003.
Pagano lists among his greatest accomplishments writing legislation enacted last year that put the County Division courts under the same merit-appointment system used for judicial openings on other Lake County Superior Courts.
While Pagano is the only current Lake County resident to apply for the Supreme Court opening, two other candidates who now live in Indianapolis previously lived in Hammond: Rory O'Bryan, 64, a private practice attorney, was born and grew up in Hammond; and Jane Seigel, 57, executive director of the Indiana Judicial Center, lived in Hammond as a child for six years.