Dedicated Civil Servant
A naturalized citizen who became the first female judge appointed to the Marion County Municipal Court.
Twice a month, the Southern District of Indiana holds a naturalization ceremony, where immigrants from all across the world take the Oath of Allegiance to become U.S. citizens. Often, these immigrants have already started building a life and making an impact in their local community. But the ceremony is still a moving, powerful moment, as close friends and family watch them become permanent citizens of their new home.
One such naturalized citizen was Judge Antonietta (Toni) Cordingley—a dedicated civil servant who left a lasting legacy on both Indianapolis and The International Center.
Born in a small village in Italy, Cordingley immigrated to Massachusetts with her parents as a child. She went on to earn her law degree from Suffolk University and eventually moved to Indianapolis with her husband in 1973.
After getting involved in local politics, Judge Cordingley became the first female judge appointed to the Marion County Municipal Court. Her tenure on the bench was then extended by two more reappointments, resulting in a total of 13 years of service across three Governors. During her time, Judge Cordingley presided over many controversial and high-profile cases, but she was always known for her class, compassion, and firm-yet-fair rulings.
In retrospect, Judge Evan D. Goodman spoke highly of her service, saying: “[My] loyal friend was never afraid to help. She always supported new ideas which improved the system.”
In her time outside the courthouse, Judge Cordingley was a passionate philanthropist. She served on the Bicentennial Commission, the Indianapolis Fire Merit Board, the Transportation Industry Study Commission, the UNICEF Advisory Board, and the People’s Health Clinic Board. For her relentless dedication to improving the lives of others, Judge Cordingley even received the prestigious Sagamore of the Wabash Award from Governor Robert Orr.
Judge Cordingley also served on The International Center’s Board of Directors for many years, shaping the future of the organization. She helped organize countless events over the years, including the 1991 Ambassadors Ball for prominent European ambassadors.
She also served as the Chair of the 1988 International Citizen of the Year Award Gala, where The Center recognized Governor Robert Orr. That year, the award ceremony was held during breakfast at the Columbia Club, and it was an undeniable success. In fact, Judge Cordingley reported that the “power breakfast” had over 400 attendees—and at her recommendation, the International Citizen of the Year Award remained a breakfast event until 1996.
Sadly, Judge Toni Cordingley passed away in 1992 after a lengthy battle with breast cancer. But her legacy lives on through the Southern District of Indiana’s naturalization ceremonies.
To honor her memory, The International Center gifts the eldest citizenship candidate with an American flag that has flown over the Capitol Building in Washington, DC. The flag serves as a reminder that all citizens bring their unique wisdom and experience to their community, while also remembering Judge Cordingley’s legacy as a force for good in Indianapolis.