CROWN POINT — Former Lake County Circuit Court Judge George Paras died this week following an undisclosed illness.
Paras, 70, of Merrillville presided for six years over the Circuit Court, which hears civil disputes ranging from constitutional matters and elections, to domestic law.
Lake County Coroner Merilee Frey said she was told of the judge's passing Friday and expressed her condolences to Paras' family.
He was Merrillville's first town judge, presiding over traffic and ordinance violations for 14 years.
He he was born and raised near downtown Gary and graduated from Gary's Horace Mann High School.
He received a bachelor's from Valparaiso University and his law degree from Birmingham School of Law. He was admitted to private law practice in 1980. He served as a judicial referee in Gary City Court for 11 years.
He was a lifelong Democrat, running successfully under the party's banner for Merrillville town judge in 1996 and Circuit Court judge in 2010, although he launched that election campaign under controversial circumstances.
Most lawyers in 2010 had expected Former Lake Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Arredondo, who had been on the bench since 1980, to run again for a new six-year term.
Circuit court is the only countywide judicial office in Lake County filled by political election, but few lawyers are willing to suspend their law practices to campaign, especially against an incumbent judge.
However, Paras, who worked for Arredondo as a probate commissioner, quietly learned Arredondo was planning to retire and filed as a Circuit Court judicial candidate within minutes of the deadline.
With other lawyers in the dark, Paras might have won the job by default. But Alex Dominguez, a nephew of then Sheriff Roy Dominguez, also learned of Arredondo's retirement and filed, also at the late minute, to challenge Paras.
Paras, ran on the platform, "Justice requires experience." He garnered endorsements from Democratic Party leaders and the Lake County Bar Association. He defeated Dominguez by in the spring primary by more than 2,000 votes and handily won the general election that fall.
Paras's 2016 re-election campaign became the most dramatic political contest that year when Marissa McDermott challenged him in the spring primary.
Democrats were split between veteran elected county officials who supported Paras and the party's younger wing, led by Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., Marissa's husband.
She won with an active traditional and social media campaign and a massive infusion of financial support from her husband's campaign coffers.
Paras resigned from office in October of 2016 in ill health.