From Amboy to the Statehouse: Kenworthy added to Indiana Court of Appeals

First time women make up the majority of the court

By: - December 22, 2022 6:30 am

Newly-selected Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Dana Kenworthy. (Screenshot from livestream)

Gov. Eric Holcomb on Wednesday named Grant County Superior Court Judge Dana Kenworthy to the Indiana Court of Appeals, marking the first time the majority of the 15 members are women.

She recently was a finalist for an Indiana Supreme Court opening but Holcomb chose Derek Molter instead. Now Kenworthy will fill Molter’s spot on the appellate court.

“Judge Kenworthy is one of the sharpest legal minds in our state which is what brought her to the courtroom, but it’s her passion for children and families that has kept her there,” Holcomb said at the Statehouse event. “The Indiana appellate court will benefit from her critical thinking skills, problem-solving technique, reasoned decision-making and her sense of justice.”

The other two finalists for the spot were Hamilton Circuit Judge Paul A. Felix and attorney Carol N. Joven.

Kenworthy mentioned Molter in her speech, saying “I met Justice Molter earlier this year in the process and found him to be incredibly intelligent and genuinely a nice guy. And so, during the first process of the year, I thought, rats. I know that he will serve the Supreme Court with honor and I am very happy to step into the void that he’s left on the Court of Appeals.”

She learned about her appointment Tuesday afternoon and said, “it’s been a whirlwind.”

The Indiana Judicial Nominating Commission interviewed 12 Hoosiers for the spot and then cut the list to six. Of those, three were chosen as finalists.

Her legal path

Kenworthy was appointed to Grant County Superior Court 2 in 2010. Before serving as a judge, she worked as a Grant County deputy prosecutor for 10 years where she focused on cases involving child abuse, sexual assault, juvenile delinquency and domestic violence.

“Dana Kenworthy is an outstanding and innovative jurist, legal scholar and is greatly respected throughout Indiana,” said Indiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Loretta Rush. “She brings a wealth of experience and humanity to our appellate bench.”

Rush said when she asked Kenworthy why she wanted the job, Kenworthy told her she was like a racehorse at the gate ready to go.

“She had me,” Rush said, complimenting her leadership in the state and nationally.

During her time as a judge in Grant County, she founded one of the earliest Family Recovery Courts in Indiana, which applies the problem-solving court model to help the highest-need and highest-risk families remain intact. In six years, the Grant County Family Recovery Court has been nationally recognized as a gold standard. Kenworthy has had 41 participants graduate from the program.

“It’s our job as judges to listen to the very best of our ability,” she said Wednesday. The law was written for people in their daily lives. Court decisions have real human impact.”

Honored and ready to go

“I am humbled and honored to be selected by Gov. Holcomb, and immensely grateful to friends and colleagues who offered support throughout the selection process,” Kenworthy added. “It is a rare privilege to serve on the Indiana Court of Appeals, and I will work hard every day to be worthy of the position.”

She was born and raised in Miami County – in the town of Amboy, population 319.

Kenworthy earned her bachelor’s degree from Ball State University and graduated summa cum laude from the Indiana University McKinney School of Law.

She was elected by her peers and continues to serve on the Indiana Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Board of Directors. She served on the Juvenile Justice Improvement Committee and the Indiana Supreme Court Resuming Operations Task Force, which established guidelines for ongoing court operations after the onset of the pandemic.

Kenworthy lives in Grant County with her husband Alex, a retired police officer, and a junior high and high school coach. She and her husband have fostered 15 children in their home over the years.


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Niki Kelly
Niki Kelly

Niki has covered the Indiana Statehouse since 1999 – including five governors. She has been honored by the Society of Professional Journalists and Hoosier State Press Association for stories on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, criminal justice issues and more. She also is a regular on Indiana Week in Review, a weekly public television rundown of news. She shifts her career to helm a staff of three and ensure Hoosiers know what’s really happening on the state level.