Articles Posted in Legal Ethics

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The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brought a judicial disciplinary action against Tommy D. Phillips II, Judge of the Dunkirk City Court (Respondent), after Respondent pleaded guilty to battery against a public safety official. Respondent and the Commission agreed that, by being convicted for battery against a public safety official, Respondent violated Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.1 and 1.2. The parties agreed that the appropriate sanction was a public reprimand on the condition that Respondent tender his resignation as the Dunkirk City Court judge and that he shall not be eligible for future judicial service. The Supreme Court imposed the sanction of a public reprimand and assessed the costs of this proceeding against Respondent. View "In re Honorable Tommy D. Phillips II" on Justia Law

Posted in: Legal Ethics

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The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brought this judicial disciplinary action against T. Edward Page, Senior Judge (Respondent), asserting that because Respondent was arrested and convicted for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, Respondent violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. Respondent immediately self-reported his misconduct, was compliant with the requests of the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, was cooperative with the Commission throughout its investigation, and was remorseful for his conduct. Respondent and the Commission agreed that, under the circumstances, the appropriate sanction was a public reprimand. The Supreme Court agreed with the parties and reprimanded Respondent. View "In re Hon. T. Edward Page" on Justia Law

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Respondent, Senior Judge William I. Garrard, was arrested and convicted for operating while intoxicated endangering a person. As a result of his conviction, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brought a judicial disciplinary action against Respondent, contending that Respondent violated the Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.1 and Rule 1.2. Respondent agreed that he violated these rules. Respondent and the Commission agreed that, after assessing both the aggravating and the mitigating factors, the appropriate sanction was a public reprimand. The Supreme Court agreed with the parties and reprimanded Respondent. View "In re Hon. William I. Garrard" on Justia Law

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YTC Dream Homes, Inc. and other franchisees (collectively, YTC) filed in Lake Superior Court a contract-related action against franchisor DirectBuy, Inc. and related parties (collectively, DirectBuy). YTC filed a motion requesting pro hac vice admission of five out-of-state attorneys to represent YTC in the case. The trial court initially granted YTC’s motion but, upon the objection of DirectBuy, vacated its original order and issued an order denying YTC’s motion, holding that YTC did not overcome the presumption under Lake County Local Rule 5(C) that an attorney not licensed in Indiana is not permitted to practice before it. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Local Rule 5(C) does not create a presumption against pro hac vice admissions. Remanded to the trial court with instructions to determine, within the discretion granted by the Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 3(2), whether good cause exists for the admission of the attorneys. View "YTC Dream Homes, Inc. v. DirectBuy, Inc." on Justia Law

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The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications brought a judicial disciplinary action against Respondent Dianna L. Bennington, Judge of the Muncie City Court. The parties subsequently jointly tendered a statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline stipulating to certain facts and violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct. The stipulated facts and violations fell into four categories: misuse of judicial authority, failure to follow proper legal procedures in guilty plea and sentencing hearings, injudicious behavior outside of the courtroom, and noncooperation with the Commission. The Supreme Court accepted the joint submission and agreed sanction and ordered that Respondent be permanently banned from serving in any judicial capacity of any kind. As required by the Court’s order, Respondent tendered her resignation to the Governor. View "In re Hon. Dianna L. Bennington" on Justia Law

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Respondent Mickey K. Weber, Judge of the Clarksville Town Court, pled guilty to criminal mischief in the second degree and operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. Respondent’s conduct violated Rules 1.1 and 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct and was aggravated by the fact that Respondent had previous legal issues related to alcohol abuse. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications (Commission) brought a judicial disciplinary action against Respondent based on his conduct. The Supreme Court reprimanded Judge Weber, ordered Respondent’s resignation from the Clarksville Town, and directed that Weber shall be ineligible for future judicial service until he successfully completes an approved treatment plan and two-year monitoring agreement approved by the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program. View "In re Hon. Mickey K. Weber" on Justia Law

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From 2002 through 2008, Respondent Kimberly J. Brown served as judge of a small claims court. In 2009, Respondent began serving as judge of the superior court. In 2013, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications charged Respondent with violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct, conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and acts of willful misconduct. The charged alleged, among other things, dereliction of judicial duties on cases, creation of a hostile environment for attorneys and others working in the court, and failures to complete necessary paperwork, which resulted in delayed releases of defendants from jail. Three Special Masters appointed by the Supreme Court found that Respondent committed judicial misconduct alleged in forty-six of the forty-seven counts for which Respondent was charged. The Commission concurred in the Masters’ recommendation that Respondent be removed from office. The Supreme Court removed Respondent from the office of judge of the superior court, concluding that the Commission demonstrated, by clear and convincing evidence, that Respondent engaged in significant judicial misconduct and that the misconduct warranted her removal from office. View "In re Brown" on Justia Law

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Relators were magistrates in the Lake Superior Court, Juvenile Division. Respondents were the Lake Superior Court, Lake Circuit Court, and the courts' judges. Relators complained about a decision made by Respondents to allow Judge Nicholas Schiralli to be reassigned from the Superior Court's County Division to its Juvenile Division. Relators filed this action seeking a permanent writ of mandamus and prohibition, arguing that a transfer of the Judge to the Juvenile Division would violate Ind. Code 33-33-45-21(e). Relators requested a permanent writ (1) declaring that Judge Schiralli could not be reassigned to the Juvenile Division; and (2) ruling that no current judge of the Superior Court was eligible for transfer to the Juvenile Division. The Supreme Court granted in part and denied in part the relief sought by Relators, holding (1) section 33-33-45-21(e) prevents Respondents from reassigning, transferring, or rotating Judge Schiralli from the County Division to the Juvenile Division; and (2) but this prohibition did not preclude the Judge from applying to be appointed, under the merit-selection process, to fill a vacancy in the other divisions of the court. View "State ex rel. Commons v. Lake Superior Court" on Justia Law

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After an automobile collision in which Travis Becker struck Rickey Whitaker, Whitaker filed suit for personal injuries. Thereafter, Whitaker's lawyer ignored repeated requests to provide information about his client's medical treatment, responded only after the trial court ordered him to do so, and then supplied false and misleading information in a way that damaged Becker's ability to ascertain the facts necessary to litigate the case. Becker's counsel filed a motion for sanctions. The trial court found that Whitaker and his lawyer had acted in bad faith and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, holding that the court acted within its discretion in making it clear to counsel that this type of behavior was unacceptable. View "Whitaker v. Becker" on Justia Law

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Respondent, a judge of the city court, dismissed the traffic infraction cases of all litigants who attended traffic school and paid the applicable fee. Respondent also entered default judgment, imposed fines and court costs, and ordered the suspension of driver's licenses of all litigants who selected traffic school but failed to complete the class. Respondent, however, had no authority to discharge traffic infraction cases without a specific request from the prosecuting attorney or to divert litigants' cases through a de facto deferral program not authorized by the county prosecutor. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications then brought a judicial disciplinary action against Respondent. Respondent and the Commission agreed that by referring traffic infraction litigants to the traffic school and then dismissing their cases upon their completion of the program without any dismissal request from the prosecutor, Respondent abused his judicial authority, committed conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and violated the Code of Judicial Conduct's provisions that required him to comply with the law. As a sanction for this misconduct, the Supreme Court suspended Respondent from office without pay for a period of sixty days. View "In re Judge Harkin " on Justia Law