INDIANAPOLIS – We’re continuing our Hispanic Heritage series by putting the spotlight on the Honorable Mario Garcia.

He’s the magistrate judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana and the first Hispanic judge appointed to the court.

He hopes his journey can inspire the next generation of lawyers.

Judge Garcia says if you can’t see it – it’s hard to be it. “An important part of assuming this role is being a good role model.”

He’s proud to be an example to the next generation of Hispanic professionals who may resonate with his story.

“There aren’t a lot of Hispanic lawyers in the community, certainly not a lot of judges and to be offered the opportunity based on my merit was certainly the most important thing to me,” said Mr. Garcia, “We certainly all want to make sure our bench reflects the community in which we serve.”

A lot of hard work and dedication led him to the federal bench in Spring of 2021. His story starts with an uncle, pushing and supporting him to become a lawyer.

“With his help and the support of my family and friends, I got through law school and began trying to figure out what the practice of law was really about,” said Garcia.

Garcia is a born and raised Hoosier.

“I grew up in Indianapolis and attended public schools,” he explained, “I always felt like I had a fair demeanor and thought about the opportunity to become a judge, but it wasn’t really well into my career that an opportunity to become a federal magistrate judge came into view.”

Judge Garcia attended Ball State University and also studied at the Indiana University School of Law – Indianapolis, before working for a local firm.

Judge Garcia works to be advocate in and out of the courtroom. For the last 10 years, he’s provided pro-bono services to people in the re-entry and community help program.

“We invite individuals who we think are at higher risk for reoffending to enter our program and we provide wrap around services for them,” he said.

The Southern District of Indiana is a busy one. In fact, Judge Garcia shared that it’s one of the busiest dockets by weighted case load in the country.

He meets people from all different backgrounds and by participating in Hispanic Heritage Month, Judge Garcia believes the court can develop a mutual respect and understanding for one another.

“If the court doesn’t reflect the community in which it serves, then there’s immediately there’s some additional work that needs to be done to gain trust by the parties who are coming in front of us.  We have to instill a sense of honor and trust in the process,” said Garcia, “When they see a judge or learn about a judge that they know is fair and impartial and unbiased and collectively we bring a number of voices different voices from different backgrounds to the table, I think it only helps solidify the importance in  the foundation upon which our judiciary is based.”

Judge Garcia will give the keynote address at the 6th annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration.

The program called, “One Judge’s Journey” will be Friday, October 7th and 2 p.m. Its hosted by several groups, including the Indiana State Bar Association Latino Affairs Committee.

The free program is open to the public with limited, in-person seating is available, along with a virtual option. Pre-registration is required and is available by emailing insd_cle@insd.uscourts.gov.