CROWN POINT | The turnout for what had been expected to be a low-key event left newly seated Lake Criminal Court Judge Samuel Cappas nearly speechless.
"Wow," Cappas said in greeting dozens of supporters from all levels of the Lake County court system.
"I can't find the words to express my appreciation," said Cappas, who was sworn in Friday by Lake Superior Court Judge Sheila Moss.
Cappas described the support from fellow judges and court staff as "very heartening."
"It means a lot to me," he said.
Cappas said his goals are to run the court efficiently, fairly and judiciously.
No newcomer, Cappas welcomed colleagues he has worked with for 30 years since first joining the office of the Lake County prosecutor on a path that led to decades as a defense attorney and, finally, the judiciary.
Cappas later also thanked Gov. Mike Pence for the opportunity to serve.
Cappas, who will hear his first case Jan. 6, takes over from longtime Lake County Judge Thomas Stefaniak Jr., who on Friday officially took the juvenile court bench.
Stefaniak and Senior Judge Thomas Webber, who had filled in for Stefaniak on the juvenile bench until the transition could be completed, were in the gallery cheering on the popular Cappas.
"I'm extremely pleased at Sam's taking over as a felony court judge," Stefaniak said. "I believe his common sense and his prosecutorial and defense background, along with his personality, will bode him well."
For Lake County Prosecutor Bernard Carter, the event was "a proud moment."
Carter recalled his law school days at Valparaiso University with Cappas.
Carter said he could see the pride in the eyes of Cappas' father Friday. He praised the new judge's temperament and demeanor.
Family members at the swearing-in included the judge's wife, Linda Cappas, and young twin daughters.
"My husband is a great guy," she said in speaking about Friday's abundance of good wishes for Cappas.