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Thursday, July 05, 2012

Ind. Courts - Jud. Qualifications Comm. publicly admonishes St. Joseph County Magistrate Barbara Johnston

The Judicial Qualifications Commission has issued a public admonition against St. Joseph County Magistrate Barbara Johnston. Here is a copy of the 4-page document, dated July 5th. Here is the news release. Some quotes:

The admonition (attached) is the result of an August 2011 hearing in which Magistrate Johnston did not ensure all parties were heard by the court in a child custody matter.

Magistrate Johnston admits her actions violate the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct and trial court rules designed to ensure basic due process. The Commission determined that formal disciplinary charges are warranted against her. However, Supreme Court rules allow for the judicial officer and the Commission to agree to a public admonition. * * *

[T]he mother died. The mother’s parents (the child’s grandparents) filed a motion asking for custody of the child. The grandparents and their attorney did not provide the child’s father with a copy of the motion. The family had been in contact with the father about the mother’s death—but did not notify him of the hearing and the fact they wanted custody of the child. Magistrate Johnston set a hearing date.

The father did not appear at the hearing. No effort was made to check the contact information the father had on file with the clerk’s office and use that contact information to notify him of the motion and the hearing date. Instead, Magistrate Johnston held the hearing and heard testimony on the custody motion without the father’s presence.

Magistrate Johnston granted an ex parte change of custody order to the grandparents, issued an order to change support payments, and allowed the grandparents to take the child to Kenya. * * *

Magistrate Johnson granted the grandparents’ request for custody and for support—without ever hearing from the father or giving him an opportunity to be heard.

When the father later learned of the court order, he immediately hired an attorney and was granted custody of his child several months later.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 5, 2012 10:15 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts