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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ind. Courts - The Indiana Judicial Disciplinary Process - Understanding the Role of "the Commission" and "the Panel"

The ILB has seen a brief AP story in a number of papers this weekend. Headlined "Panel calls for judge’s ouster" the story itself reports:

INDIANAPOLIS – A state judicial commission is recommending the Indiana Supreme Court remove from the bench an embattled judge who faces misconduct charges. [No mention of the "panel" in the story.]
Both the headline and the story are correct separately, but they are not correct together. Instead, this appears to be the case of a new headline on an old story.

Explanation of the judicial disciplinary process can be found clearly set out here on the webpages of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications. This page describes the initiation of a disciplinary process, the inquiry, and the investigation, all conducted by the 7-member Commission and staff. Then, if, after the investigation:

... the Commission finds probable cause that the judge has committed ethical misconduct, the Commission may vote that formal, public charges are warranted.

If the Commission files formal charges, the proceeding is public, and the [7-member] Commission no longer may informally resolve the case.

After charges have been filed and the judge has answered, the Supreme Court appoints Masters, three active or retired judges, who preside in the event the case proceeds to a hearing.

At the hearing, the judge has the right to counsel, the right to call and examine witnesses, and the right to compel the production of documents. The Indiana Rules of Evidence generally apply. The proceedings are open to the public and are reported verbatim.

[ILB: The Commission's counsel, Adrienne Meiring, served as prosecutor in the Judge Brown hearing.

At the conclusion of the hearing, each side was provided the opportunity to submit their proposed findings. "The Commission", in the person of Ms. Meiring, submitted proposed findings of facts and conclusions of law (114-pages) on Nov. 27th (docketed Dec. 2nd), including a recommendation that Judge Brown be removed from office. (Here is the Brown docket).

Judge Brown did not submit findings, but rather on Dec. 11th filed an offer to submit to discipline.

The Commission filed an "Opposition to Respondent's Submission to Discipline in Lieu of Submission of Findings" on Dec. 19th. See this Dec. 21st ILB post.]

At the conclusion of the hearing, the Masters prepare and transmit to the Court a report with their recommended findings of fact and conclusions of law. If the Masters find that the Commission has proved its charges by clear and convincing evidence, they may recommend a sanction.

[The Panel of Masters filed their findings of fact, conclusions of law, and recommended sanction on Dec. 27th. See this Dec. 27th ILB post, including a link to the 107-page document.]

If the Supreme Court concludes that the judge committed ethical misconduct, it determines the appropriate sanction. The Court is not bound by the Masters' report, but gives it deference. The Court may issue a Private Reprimand, a Public Reprimand or greater sanctions, from a suspension from office without pay to removal from office. In the most serious cases, sanctions against the judge as an attorney, including suspension or disbarment are possible. Typically, the judge is ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding.

Here is a long list of ILB entries on the Judge Brown disciplinary action.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 29, 2013 02:55 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts