She Rules: Judge Sarah Evans Barker on Indiana Culture

The venerable decider drops her gavel on pressing issues—like Indy’s nickname, Tom Crean backlash, and more.

In our May issue, you’ll get to know federal Judge Sarah Evans Barker as a warm, whip-smart decider who has won admirers of all political stripes and stays heavily involved in the Indianapolis community while managing one of the hardest jobs in the state. We asked her to take a break from untangling constitutional matters to settle other crucial debates in Hoosierland.

Sarah Evans Barker Desk

At the magazine, we disagree on what we should call people from Indianapolis: Naptowners, Indianapolites, Indianapolitans. What do you think?

That’s the thing about a nickname: It has to fit. And it has to be something people gravitate to naturally. We had a trial recently with a confidential informant in the fact pattern. Never appeared as a witness but he was described by several people. He was reported to weigh over 400 pounds, and his nickname was Large. Of course it was. I never met him, never saw him, but you can understand why the name was tacked on to it. Hoosier is best. It works.

Is St. Elmo’s shrimp cocktail too hot?

For whom? I don’t know about the average person. I like it, but I have to steel myself to eat it.

Tenderloin: grilled or breaded?

I’d say probably grilled. I have a friend who grew up out East who says we don’t say it right, that it should be two syllables on the last four letters.

Are we being too hard on Tom Crean?

Probably, but we’re that hard on all of our IU basketball coaches. That’s what Indiana is. It’s like saying are we too hard on Obama. The answer is yes, and it’s because of the job they’re in.

Is IM columnist Phil Gulley too grumpy?

No. Pure, pure, pure. I love him.

You’re a good singer. Who would you have chosen to replace Jim Nabors at the Indianapolis 500?

Sylvia McNair. She and I are friends. She’s from Bloomington. To hear her perform at IU basketball games, when she did “A Little Night Music” at IRT … you know, I would trail after her just about any place.