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Veterans Court internship gives glimpse into legal career

July 17, 2018

KOKOMO, Ind. — A criminal justice class at Indiana University Kokomo led to the first steps towards a legal career for one student.

Gabriel Retz

Gabriel Retz connected with Judge Brant Parry, from Howard County Superior Court II, when Parry taught his criminal justice class, and often stayed after class to ask questions about careers in law. Noting his interest, Parry offered Retz an internship in the newly-established Veteran’s Court, which he administers.

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was seven years old. This is the first real and concrete step towards what I want to do for the rest of my life,” said Retz, from Gas City. “It’s exciting to take those initial steps.”

He began in late May by observing in court, and has evolved into a more active role since then. 

“I’m starting to be integrated into doing the sentencing orders and the paperwork,” he said, and he’s also invited to contribute during planning meetings for veteran’s court.

“Veteran’s Court is different from criminal court,” he said. “You’re putting people in restoration programs, so there is deliberation among the judge, the attorneys, and friends of the court, to determine where these veterans can receive help. It’s a good difference, with a frame of mind that we’re trying to give back to people who sacrificed for our country.”

The Howard County Veterans Court serves veterans in Howard, Cass, Miami, and Fulton counties, and connects veterans access specialized VA care as an alternative to being sentenced to jail.

Retz, an English and pre-law major, said he likes the court’s mission, using the law to improve the community.

“This is an opportunity to see the law being used to make our society better,” he said. “You appreciate not only the law, but the community the law is trying to improve. Treating veterans with restoration instead of punishment will be beneficial, using the judicial system to build the community as a whole.”

He also appreciates Parry’s mentorship for him, and the opportunity to watch him at work.

“He embodies what I think every judge should be,” said Retz. “He keeps it impartial, but he doesn’t want to be too distant. He understands that people are human and make mistakes, and not everybody deserves to be incarcerated for a long time. His outlook on the judiciary, and how we approach our community, and what we can do to help, has influenced me.”

His goal is admission to IU’s Maurer School of Law, and to practice criminal law as a defense attorney.

Retz said he chose law as his vocation because “there’s a sense of equity and fairness that influences what we do in the judicial system,” and the ability of law benefit a community.

“It’s a reflection of not only humanity itself, but what we can accomplish as a society,” he said. “With law, we can influence our society, and improve it. It’s beautiful to be able to do that.”

Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.

Last updated: 07/17/2018