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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Judging With a Purpose

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by Kara Kavensky

Judge Tiffany U. Vivo currently serves as our Marion Circuit Court judge. 

Seeking a better life, Tiffany Vivo’s family took the brave and bold step of leaving their home country of the Philippines, and immigrated to the United States in 1985. Tiffany was eleven years old at that time and the oldest of four children. Vivo’s aunt had immigrated to the U.S. years earlier and had settled in Merrillville, so her family also opted for Northwest Indiana.

“I have had this innate sense of justice and a drive for helping people since I was quite young,” states Judge Vivo, a graduate of Valparaiso University.

Vivo was raised by the strong women who supported her. She was told that if she worked hard, she could be anything she wanted. The values of acknowledging a greater purpose and giving back were lessons that were also strongly emphasized.

Since passing Indiana’s bar exam, Vivo has been practicing law for over twenty years. She began working for a bankruptcy firm in Indianapolis after law school, and shortly transitioned to family and immigration law as a solo practitioner. During this time, she also worked as a contract public defender and it was her experience with juvenile court that opened her eyes to the need for compassionate assistance within the court system. During this eye-opening experience, Vivo helped parents defend against the removal of their children from their home and the threat of termination of their parental rights.

“I am passionate about the law and helping others, this is not just a job for me, it’s a lifelong calling,” says Judge Vivo, who is bilingual in Tagalog and English. “I feel it’s very important to take care of the community.” (Tagalog is the native language of the Philippines)

Vivo saw opportunity and a fit for her passion and compassion for families. She applied for an opening in Marion Superior Court and in January, 2011, she began her judicial career as a Commissioner, a lower ranking judicial officer.

As a Commissioner, Vivo heard cases, just like a regular judge, and was assigned to preside over both criminal and civil matters. She was subsequently promoted as a Magistrate judge in Marion Circuit Court in 2015. In 2021, Vivo and two others Magistrates were chosen by Marion Superior Court to help in the creation of the Family Division. In December, 2021, Vivo was appointed presiding Judge of Marion Circuit Court and she began her term in office on January 1st, 2022. Under the Indiana Constitution, Vivo is required to run for election in this year’s election cycle.

The population of Marion County is 977,203 according to the 2020 census and all of these citizens have access to the Marion County Circuit Court, should a need arise. When Judge Vivo was appointed to the Circuit Court, she inherited almost 30k open cases, many of which needed to be closed out.

This massive decluttering job would have sent Marie Kondo into a tailspin. To date, Vivo and her team continue to tackle the bulk of the case load and have cleared just over 6k cases as of September. Vivo also inherited a number of overdue orders which she and her Magistrates have brought up to date.

The Circuit Court focuses on civil matters divided into two camps: the paternity division and civil division. The paternity side is dominated by child-related matters such as what happens to the child, child support, and tax-exempt status allocation. The civil side involves cases such as driver’s license reinstatement, election challenges, gender marker and name changes, property disputes, and business-related matters, among other things.

“A lot of the cases I see can be emotionally charged especially regarding paternity concerns, and can also exist in neighbor disputes, or disagreements between business partners,” says Judge Vivo. “These are everyday issues that our community faces and if they can’t resolve it, they come to court.”

Judge Vivo’s position of leadership is not going unnoticed. Earlier this year, Judge Vivo was named a “Distinguished Life Fellow” by the Indianapolis Bar Foundation. She was also the recipient of the Valparaiso University Alumni Achievement Award.  

“My eyes are open to our community; how diverse we are and what we are doing to help each other. Indianapolis is a very caring community overall,” says Judge Vivo.

Judge Vivo enjoys engaging with the community and feels that it is part of her job to do so. She also believes that it’s important for communities to have representation and to be seen and heard. Access to the court is a fundamental right we all share that Judge Vivo works hard to promote.

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