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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ind. Courts - Judge Grant W. Hawkins receives a suspension without pay for a period of 60 days

A 27-page, 3-2 decision with four opinions, issued late this afternoon, in the case of In the Matter of: the Hon. Grant W. Hawkins, Judge in the Marion Superior Court and the Hon. Nancy Broyles, Commissioner in the Marion Superior Court, the main opinion concludes on p. 22:

In the current case, a majority of this Court concludes that the appropriate discipline lies between a public reprimand and removal from office, i.e., a period of suspension from office without pay. However, the justices of this Court hold divergent views regarding the appropriate duration of such suspension for Judge Hawkins, as more fully expressed in the attached separate opinions. Because a majority of the Court favors a suspension without pay for a period of at least sixty (60) days, that is the effective disposition reached today in this matter.

Disposition: On the basis of the foregoing and the views expressed below, the Court orders that the Respondent, Grant W. Hawkins, shall be suspended from the office of Judge in the Marion Superior Court without pay for sixty (60) days commencing the first day following the date of this opinion. The suspension shall terminate and the judge shall automatically be reinstated to office at 12:01 A.M. on the sixty-first day following the date of this opinion. The costs of this proceeding are assessed against, and accordingly should be equally shared by, Respondents. The Special Masters appointed in this case are discharged, and we thank them for their conscientious service in this matter.

Dickson, Justice, concurring [and proposing a 60-day suspension without pay];
Shepard, Chief Justice, dissenting [and agreeing to Justice Sullivan's assessment of a one-year suspension];
Sullivan, Justice, dissenting [arguing for a one-year suspension];
Boehm, Justice, dissenting [arguing for a 30-day suspension, in which Justice Rucker concurs].

This from CJ Shepard's dissent at p. 24-25:

A suspension of sixty days without pay is not an adequate sanction for a judge whose disorganization and indifference caused a man wrongly to sit in prison for two years. * * *

The question dividing the members of this Court is whether Judge Hawkins may be presented to the public as someone who can be relied on to take better care of litigants going forward. His approach to defending the present charges helps answer that question and the answer is not comforting. Beyond all the actions that so shocked the trial judges hearing the witnesses, Judge Hawkins has chosen to argue to us that Mr. Buntin isn’t necessarily innocent. Suggesting that perhaps there wasn’t much injustice in Buntin’s two-year wait in prison for a ruling is not the sort of defense one ought to hear from a judicial officer, but it complements Judge Hawkins’ proposal that the appropriate sanction might be time off with pay.

This from Justice Sullivan's dissent at pp. 26-27:
My analysis of Judge Hawkins’s misconduct, standing alone, is that it warrants a two year suspension from office. He did not organize or manage his court to assure prompt and conscientious attention to the liberty interests of incarcerated persons in general or to Mr. Buntin in particular. He impeded the Commission’s investigation of his case and it is the considered
judgment of the Masters that he be removed from office.

But, in my view, Judge Hawkins’s misconduct does not stand alone. His sanction should be mitigated by his years of exemplary service to the bench and bar of this State.

Balancing the mitigating circumstances against the weight of the misconduct itself, I would suspend Judge Hawkins from office for one year.

For earlier ILB entries, check this list.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 11, 2009 05:52 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions