CROWN POINT — Gov. Mike Pence named former business owner Amy Jorgensen the new Hammond City Court judge on Monday, a decision criticized by the city's mayor.

Jorgensen is the former owner and operator of seven Sylvan Learning Centers in Northwest Indiana and Chicago, according to a resume she provided The Times of Northwest Indiana.

Jorgensen said Monday in an email she sold her remaining interest in the tutoring centers in December 2015, but she remains a consultant for the new owners.

In January, Jorgensen was appointed chairwoman of the St. John Republican Party, but she said Monday she resigned from that position.

Jorgensen obtained a law degree from the Valparaiso University School of Law in 1998, the resume states.

Jorgensen will replace longtime jurist Jeffrey Harkin, who died in April. Gerald P. Kray was appointed the pro tem judge on April 26.

The City Court handles both criminal and civil cases, including evictions and local traffic and ordinance violations.

Pence said in a statement Monday he believed Jorgensen possessed the intellect and temperament to make an excellent judge, and he was confident she would serve the community with distinction.

Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., a Democrat, criticized the governor Monday for choosing a nonresident of the city to serve as its judge. He also said Jorgensen lacked the law experience necessary to preside over the city's busy court.

“She will get very little respect from me as mayor,” McDermott said in an interview. “This is a carpetbagger coming in to run our City Court and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

The governor's office did not respond to a request seeking comment.

Jorgensen said she had no interest in “partisan squabbling.”

Jorgensen's resume indicates she has had little, if any, professional law experience, but her law license remains active, state records indicate.

She did not respond directly to questions about her law experience, but said Pence reviewed her application and declared she would make an "excellent judge," which should satisfy the mayor. 

Jorgensen admitted she was not a current resident of Hammond, but said it was not a requirement for a gubernatorial appointee. However, she said she executed a lease for a Hammond residence last Friday, and she was also seeking to purchase a home.

Jorgensen was selected over two other candidates for the appointment — Hammond City Court civil referee Nathan Foster and Hammond attorney Diana Gonzalez.

Jorgensen will serve the remainder of Harkin's four-year term, which began last November.


Lake County Courts and Social Justice Reporter

Steve covers Lake County courts and social justice issues for The Times. The UW-Milwaukee graduate joined The Times in 2016 after reporting on criminal justice in New Mexico and Wisconsin.