Former Allen County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Scheibenberger died Tuesday.
He was 69.
Scheibenberger was appointed the bench in 1991 by Gov. Evan Bayh. He lost a re-election bid in 2010 to Wendy Davis.
A cause of death was not immediately released.
Scheibenberger was a graduate of Concordia High School. He graduated from IPFW in 1971 later from the IU School of Law in Indianapolis. He served as an attorney with Lebamoff Law Offices before being appointed to the bench. He was also an assistant public defender in Allen County before being named judge.
He is credited with creating the county’s drug court program, one of the first in Indiana.
“Judge Scheibenberger had the foresight and wisdom to see substance abuse as a health problem, not just a cause for punishment,” said Judge Wendy Davis, Allen Superior Court. “There are hundreds of people who are alive today because of his vision for Drug Court and his passion for rehabilitation. He never stopped caring about that cause, and kept attending Drug Court graduations to show his support. The community benefited tremendously from his public service.”
Scheibenberger’s Drug Court predecessor Judge Fran Gull says the community will forever be indebted to him and his convictions.
“He was criticized quite soundly and roundly by others in the community for being soft on crime and hugging the thugs that were committing the crime and he took it in stride and basically said, that’s your opinion,” she explained. “My opinion is that we can treat them and we can make them better citizens and in the end, he was right. He was absolutely right.”
He also helped found Fort Wayne’s Germanfest event at Headwaters Park.
“Without Ken there, it’s going to be a big whole in it for sure,” said Robert Anweiler, the Germanfest treasurer. “Not having him there is going to be a huge, huge change for all of us. Just the perseverance is probably the biggest thing he’s done and just keeping everybody focused and moving forward and doing new things and trying different things.”
After he left the court in 2010 he served as administrator to the city’s program to help identify and shutter drug houses throughout Fort Wayne. He retired from that position in 2015.
Scheibenberger was suspended from the bench in 2009 for an outburst towards a defendant in another courtroom. It stemmed from his son’s 2007 drug-related death and Scheibenberger’s belief that the man sold his son drugs. Scheibenberger was suspended for three days and formally apologized for not keeping his emotions in check.
Before losing re-election, Scheibenberger was open about his battle with alcoholism.
Scheibenberger was a Fort Wayne native.
Funeral services for Scheibenberger will be held 11 a.m. Monday at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church at 1126 S. Barr St., with a calling one hour beforehand. Another calling will be held Sunday from 2-7 p.m. at Hockemeyer & Miller Funeral Home, 6131 St. Joe Road. He will be laid to rest in Concordia Cemetery Gardens.