A Life of Honor

Hard work and persistence paved Judge Robert Altice Jr.'s path to the bench
Headshot of Robert R. Altice Jr.

As a young man, Judge Robert R. Altice Jr. (J.D. '87) was so unfamiliar with entering law school that he submitted his application too late to be accepted.

But that slight misstep early on did not keep him from a distinguished career that led to a seat on the Indiana Court of Appeals, the second-highest court in the state. Support from his family and a tenacious spirit allowed Altice to overcome the challenges he faced as a first-generation college student and rise to the top of his field.

Ascending the Legal Ranks

Altice began his legal career in Kansas City handling felony cases under Jackson County Prosecutor Albert Riederer. He remembers starting in the office his first day after passing the bar. Sitting at his desk, the boss came up with a stack of papers saying, "These are yours. There's a couple of murders in there. Get 'em worked up and get 'em ready for trial," Altice recalled. "They really kind of threw you in there."

After leaving the prosecutor's office, Altice focused on medical malpractice defense at the Kansas City law firm of Shughart Thomson & Kilroy, which later merged with the firm that is now Polsinello. Altice's memories from Kansas City include learning the ropes from assistant prosecutor Patrick Hall and taking law school classes taught by Professor Jack Balkin.

Altice and his family moved to Indianapolis in 1992. After a stint in private practice, Altice joined the Marion County prosecutor's office in 1994. He later won election and served on the Marion County Superior Court when then-Gov. Mike Pence appointed him to the court of appeals in 2015.


Altice had applied for a seat on the court of appeals twice before and had already decided his third attempt would be his last. Altice got to share high-fives and leaps of joy with friends upon getting word of his appointment when the governor's call came while Altice was on the golf course.

After calling his wife and parents, Altice had time to reflect. "I felt like my hard work and my parents' many sacrifices had paid off," he recalled. "I also thought about the huge responsibility I was about to take on and what an honor it was to be selected."

Altice's parents robed him at his investiture.

Humble Beginning

After missing that law school application deadline, Altice took a detour and earned a master's in criminal justice administration at what is now the University of Central Missouri. The silver lining to that change of plans, he said, is that he improved his grades from his undergraduate years and gained the confidence to succeed in law school.

Altice's parents, Robert and Louis, both from Rocky Mount, Virginia, instilled that drive to succeed in their son. Altice's father parlayed postsecondary training at an electronics school in Springfield, Missouri, into a long career repairing business equipment -- everything from calculators to computers. His dad's promotions kept the family on the move, including stops in New Jersey, Ohio and Kansas.

"They talked about their struggles and their lack of education," he said. "I just think they say (college) as the way to be more successful than they were, (and) when you eventually raise a family, to be successful at that as well." 

Personal Success

In addition to pursuing his college education, Altice also prioritized his family life. He met his wide, Kris Altice (J.D. '89) when they were undergraduates at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. Later, Kris joined him in Kansas City and she pursued a law career herself. Kris currently works as general counsel at the Indianapolis construction company Shiel Sexton.


Kris' appreciation for her husband's accomplishments stems in part from their contrasting upbringing, starting with the fact that she lived in the same house throughout her entire childhood.

The world of college was hardly a mystery to her when it came time to apply. Her parents met while attending Purdue University, and her mother served on the board of trustees at DePauw University. At age 33, and as the mother of five children, Kris' mom went back to school to earn her law degree, landing a position at a large Indianapolis law firm.

Small-town success stories typically involve kids whose parents were community leaders, like the sheriff of the superintendent or the principal, Kris said. Less frequent, Kris continued, is the tale of a boy who came from a family where the dad fixed typewriters and the mom prided herself on how she folded the laundry and cleaned the house. 

"He came from nothing," she said. "He has an appreciation for all walks of life. He can befriend the wallflower, and he knows how to connect with people and reach out. He works hard, and when he says he is going to do something, he gets it done."

Her husband's transient childhood molded him into an extrovert, Kris said. He's the kind of guy who would befriend the elevator operator when such positions still existed, she said. The "overwhelming delight" of the overflow crowd at the ceremony marking his appointment to the court of appeals demonstrated the friendship and respect her husband enjoys.

The couple has two children: Kathleen, 27, and Jack, 30. Both kids followed in their parents' footsteps to attend Miami University. The Altices also have a niece who graduated from the UMKC School of Law this year.

An Honorable Achievement

Altice's parents are now retired and living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. All three of their children graduated from college, an accomplishment that brings them great pride.

Kris said it's likely that if you run into her mother-in-law at the grocery store, she will find a way to work in that she has a son who is a judge. And notes or cards from her always come addressed to the Hon. Robert R. Altice Jr.

"It's hysterical," Kris said. "There's no 'Bob.' She is so darn proud. It is just absolutely amazing. It brings tears to her eyes thinking about it."


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Published: Jun 30, 2022

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