Archive for the ‘Indiana’ Category

Judge facing discipline refused to take deposition oath

November 8, 2013

Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown refused to be sworn during a deposition before the Judicial Qualifications Commission – a videotaped moment of defiance used against her Monday at the outset of her weeklong disciplinary case.

Over the objection of Brown’s attorneys, the three-judge panel of special masters allowed into evidence the judge’s videotaped refusal to swear to tell the truth during an Aug. 1 deposition in the case that now includes 47 counts of judicial misconduct.

“I am always an officer of the court,” Brown says in refusing to take the oath. “I am a judge.”

Meanwhile, Brown’s attorneys said the case against her is a result of problems with her court staff and that she’s being singled out for delayed releases of criminal defendants that have happened with other Marion Superior judges.

Brown was the first witness called in a hearing expected to last at least through the end of this week and possibly into next week. Brown wiped away tears as she attempted to explain why she refused to be sworn in the deposition. “I believe I’m always an officer of the court and therefore always bound to the truth,” she said.

“But you decided to do something different today,” JQC attorney Adrienne Meiring said after Brown took an oath before the masters. Retired Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro is presiding over the panel that includes Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure and Lake Superior Judge Sheila M. Moss.

Meiring pointed Brown to rules of evidence requiring witnesses be sworn and admitted into evidence the statutes governing oaths that judges and other public officials such as police officers must take. Taliaferro asked Brown multiple times to explain why she believed she wasn’t required to swear an oath at the deposition.

“I wasn’t basing it on anything other than I’m always an officer of the court,” Brown said.

Meiring argued that Brown’s refusal to be sworn at the deposition illustrated the nature of many of the complaints against her. The charges against Brown include allegations that she delayed release of at least nine defendants – in one case for 22 days – failed to properly oversee her court, was hostile toward parties who came before and retaliated against court staff who complained, among other things.

Meiring opened by using Brown’s alleged words against her – “This isn’t McDonald’s … It’ll get ruled on when it gets ruled on,” Meiring said. “This is not simply a situation of a bad day.

Full Article and Source:
Judge facing discipline refused to take deposition oath

See Also:
Deadline set for Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown to respond to petition seeking her removal

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Jury convicts disbarred northern Indiana lawyer of forging other attorneys’ names on documents

October 4, 2013


MISHAWAKA, Indiana — Jurors have convicted a disbarred northern Indiana attorney of forging the names of other lawyers on court documents.

The St. Joseph County jury returned guilty verdicts Wednesday against 47-year-old Rod Sniadecki on three felony counts of forgery.

The South Bend Tribune reports (http://bit.ly/1eHYFGU ) Sniadecki’s former legal assistant testified she forged the signatures and faked information in a tax return to secure a mortgage on his South Bend office.

Defense attorney Len Zappia argued the assistant did so without Sniadecki’s knowledge to keep the office running while he was gone.

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended Sniadecki in 2007 for starting a relationship with a woman whose divorce he was handling and lying about it. He was disbarred in 2010 for the forgery case.

Full Article and Source:
Jury convicts disbarred northern Indiana lawyer of forging other attorneys’ names on documents

Deadline set for Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown to respond to petition seeking her removal

September 8, 2013

The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday set a noon Wednesday deadline for Marion Superior Judge Kimberly J. Brown to file a response challenging an emergency petition to remove her from the bench.

The order signed by Chief Justice Brent E. Dickson says the deadline was set because disciplinary rules do not specifically establish a deadline for responses to interim suspension petitions.

The state Commission on Judicial Qualifications last month filed a complaint against Brown alleging 45 counts of misconduct. At the same time, the commission filed an emergency petition seeking her suspension, with pay, pending outcome of a disciplinary case involving the alleged misconduct.

The action to remove a judge before completion of a disciplinary case is an “extraordinary measure,” the court noted when announcing the action against Brown on Aug. 26.

Brown, a Democrat elected in 2008, faces charges that include dereliction of duty, delaying the release of at least nine defendants from jail, failing to train or supervise court employees, creating a hostile environment for staff and attorneys and failing to properly complete paperwork.

A staff member who answered the phone in Brown’s court Friday said that the judge was “unavailable” but could not say whether or not Brown was working. Brown was reported to be on vacation when the charges were filed and it was not clear Friday whether she had returned to the bench.

Full Article and Source:
Deadline set for Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown to respond to petition seeking her removal

Indianapolis attorney-blogger Paul Ogden faces judicial disciplinary complaint

September 1, 2013

All he had to do was apologize.

 But Paul Ogden wouldn’t — and now the Indianapolis attorney may lose his license to practice law for privately criticizing a judge. Today, Ogden will attempt to acquit himself at a public hearing conducted by the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission.

He’s hanging his defense on the First Amendment’s guarantee of free speech. But the ability to exercise that basic right gets murky when it comes to working lawyers, who relinquish some of their speech protections.

Ogden is expecting the worst but said he’d rather face a suspension or lose his law license than hold his tongue.

That response comes as little surprise to those who know Ogden or read his blog at OgdenonPolitics.com, where he often unleashes caustic attacks on politicians and bureaucrats, the legal community and media. Among his targets: the disciplinary commission that now holds his fate.

It was Ogden’s criticism of Hendricks Superior Court Judge David H. Coleman in a private email, however, that landed him in trouble with the commission. The judge learned of Ogden’s comments alleging he had a conflict of interest in a case in which Ogden represented a client. The judge asked for an apology. When the attorney refused, the judge filed a complaint. “I was standing up for a client who got a raw deal,” Ogden said. “As far as I can tell, this is the first time they have gone after an attorney for something said in a private context. My question is: How far are they going to go? Attorneys criticize judges all the time, and this could have a real chilling effect. This is about more than me.”

While Ogden appears to face an uphill battle in the fight for his legal future, the First Amendment protects his speech, said Margaret Tarkington, an associate professor at the Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law in Indianapolis. Tarkington, who has written extensively on professional conduct and the free speech rights of attorneys, said Ogden is not alone in finding himself at odds with an attorney disciplinary system for comments that most other citizens are free to make. It is an issue that free speech advocates and legal scholars say is becoming more common — and troubling — across the U.S.

It is not just the attempts to stifle criticism, particularly statements made outside the courtroom, that Tarkington and others find troubling. It also is how the disciplinary process works.

In defamation cases regarding public officials, the First Amendment requires that the victim prove the statement was false and that the speaker knew it was false or entertained serious doubts as to its truth. Yet in many states, attorney discipline cases require the accused to prove their statements are true, which Tarkington opines is in direct violation of established First Amendment law.

Then there’s the reality that, in cases involving criticism of judges, it ultimately is a panel of judges — the Supreme Court in Indiana — that makes the final determination on guilt and punishment.

Unlike other public and elected officials, Tarkington said, judges can insulate themselves from public criticism by the people who know the most about them — attorneys.

Lawrence G. Walters, a Florida-based attorney who has a national First Amendment law practice, said there are some legitimate reasons for limiting what attorneys can say, but those are primarily related to comments inside the courtroom and about pending cases.

“There’s a certain level of decorum and formality that is essential to permit the proper administration of justice,” he said. “The public has to have faith in the system, that it’s not a circus.” Attorneys should have more freedom outside the courtroom, Walters said, “so long as it doesn’t affect the administration of justice.”

Ogden contends his comments had no bearing on the case. The judge he criticized already had been removed, at Ogden’s request, for failing to act within established time frames. “I have been very critical of the commission,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to do with that.” His past complaints have included asking the Supreme Court to “take a good look at what is going on at the disciplinary commission and investigate how it operates,” Ogden said. In fact, the charges that he violated professional conduct standards came not long after Ogden wrote a blog post criticizing the commission. His claim: The panel recommended action more often against individual and small-firm attorneys, while ignoring the actions of attorneys with the state’s big law firms.

“Maybe I’m paranoid,” Ogden said, “but shortly after that, I started getting things filed against me.”

Ogden contends his comments had no bearing on the case. The judge he criticized already had been removed, at Ogden’s request, for failing to act within established time frames. He suspects the disciplinary action really is more about his criticism of the commission. “I have been very critical of the commission,” he said. “I think a lot of it has to do with that.”

His past complaints have included asking the Supreme Court to “take a good look at what is going on at the disciplinary commission and investigate how it operates,” Ogden said. “They need to go after attorneys doing unethical things, who are endangering the public.”

In fact, the charges that he violated professional conduct standards came not long after Ogden wrote a blog post criticizing the commission. His claim: The panel recommended action more often against individual and small-firm attorneys, while ignoring the actions of attorneys with the state’s big law firms. “Maybe I’m paranoid,” Ogden said, “but shortly after that, I started getting things filed against me.”

Full Article and Source:
Indianapolis attorney-blogger Paul Ogden faces judicial disciplinary complaint

Couple given probation for bilking elderly woman

July 19, 2013

VALPARAISO | Porter County Superior Court Judge Mary Harper accepted a plea agreement Wednesday for a Michigan City couple who pleaded guilty to stealing more than $100,000 from an elderly, blind Chesterton woman they were caring for.

The plea agreement imposes an eight-year prison sentence for both Bary and Robbin Bostic with the couple getting credit for the 252 days already served and the rest to be served on probation. They also must reimburse the victim and must take part in a program of intensive monitoring and classes.

Robbin, 40, and Bary, 48, pleaded guilty in June to stealing gold, silver and platinum coins and bars, jewelry and cash between January and April 2012. They reportedly have returned about three-fourths of the stolen assets.

Police said they were alerted to the theft March 16 after responding to a burglary complaint at the woman’s downtown area home. She was living in a Michigan City hotel because of a mold problem, which police later found to be minimal enough not to warrant moving out.

Police learned the Bostics rented a storage unit in their name with a check from the woman, and they took gold, silver and platinum coins and bars valued at more than $220,000 to sell to a jeweler. Robbin Bostic had a wedding ring set belonging to the victim but claimed it was a gift from the woman.

Full Article and Source:
Couple given probation for bilking elderly woman

Indiana Judicial Candidate Disciplined by Indiana Supreme Court

May 30, 2013

The Indiana Supreme Court, Indianapolis, has barred Tammy Davis, the Democratic candidate for judge of the Franklin Circuit Court last November, from seeking judicial office for five years and publicly reprimanded her, according to an order signed by Chief Justice Brent Dickson and filed May 7.

The court took the middle road in its discipline of the attorney.

Davis also is required to pay the proceeding’s costs, the order noted.

The document explained that the commission, a seven-member group that investigates possible ethical misconduct by judges and candidates for judicial office, filed a seven-count Notice of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and Statement of Charges alleging that Davis “made several false, misleading and/or inappropriate statements during her campaign about the character and conduct of the incumbent, Judge J. Steven Cox, in violation of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.” Davis filed her legal answer Nov. 15, 2012.

Kathryn Dolan, Indiana Supreme Court public information officer, explained after the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed disciplinary charges against the Brookville woman Oct. 26, 2012, just 12 days before the election, “The court can dismiss the charges against Davis or it can impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a permanent ban on holding a judicial office in Indiana.”

Full Article and Source:
Local Judicial Candidate Disciplined by Indiana Supreme Court

Court Rules on Discipline Charges Against Indiana Senior Judge

April 27, 2013

In a settlement agreement with the Indiana Supreme Court, former Winamac attorney Lisa Traylor-Wolff has been permanently banned from judicial service and suspended from the practice of law for at least 45 days, effective immediately.

The decision was handed down by the state supreme court April 9. Traylor-Wolff, who has a law office in Logansport, has most recently served as a public defender in Cass County, and a senior judge serving Fulton and Pulaski counties.

The Indiana Supreme court ruled on disciplinary charges, filed by Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications in February, against Traylor-Wolff. The charges stemmed from allegations that Traylor-Wolff had an inappropriate relationship with a criminal defendant she represented.

In addition to the permanent ban and suspension, Traylor-Wolff was ordered to serve two years of probation, which include undergoing treatment with the Indiana Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program.

In the settlement agreement submitted by Traylor-Wolff and her attorney James Bell, she agreed to two of the charges filed against her, and a third charge was dismissed.

The Commission had alleged that Traylor-Wolff violated conduct standards that apply to all judges, including senior judges. Senior judges work on a part-time basis filling-in for trial court judges.

These part-time judges, who are attorneys, are also permitted to represent clients. Full-time judges are not allowed to represent anyone in court. The charges against Judge Traylor-Wolff stemmed from allegations she committed misconduct while representing a client, not while serving as a judge. The Commission has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute claims against senior judges.

The charges centered on allegations that Judge Traylor-Wolff had a physically intimate relationship with a 26-year-old client that she represented. Traylor-Wolff was appointed to represent a defendant on felony charges.

Full Article and Source:
Court Rules on Discipline Charges Against Senior Judge

Bank Worker Charged With Bilking Indiana Elderly

April 14, 2013

Federal embezzlement charges have been lodged against a bank worker in Greensburg, after two elderly customers reported that their accounts had been drained.

Michelle Wagner, a customer service manager for Fifth Third Bank  branch in Greensburg, is charged with taking money from two victims’ accounts between July 2010 and December 2011.

Federal investigators accuse Wagner of pocketing more than $344,000 from the victims’ accounts, after having promised to write checks and pay their routine living expenses using the money from their accounts. Investigators said the victims never authorized her to take money for herself.

For the first victim, agents said Wagner started issuing cashier’s checks and withdrawing cash from the account, totaling $128,404.

Agents said Wagner cashed in numerous certificates of deposit belonging to the second victim, adding up to $171,686. She is also accused of withdrawing $44,829 from the victim’s other accounts, from which she was supposed to be paying the victim’s bills.

A spokesperson for Fifth Third Bank in Indianapolis did not respond to a request for comment.

Full Article and Source:
Bank Worker Charged With Bilking Indiana Elderly

IN: End of Life Case Spotlights Difficult Decisions

January 26, 2013

Last week, following directives in a living will that Paul G. Smith, a retired attorney and former Hamilton County, Ind., court magistrate, signed nearly a decade ago, doctors at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis removed him from a ventilator that helped ease his labored breathing.

The living will restricts actions medical providers can take to keep him alive and hands decisions about artificially supplied nutrients and fluids to daughter Judith Sly. A feeding tube that once provided nourishment also was disconnected, though hospital staff occasionally moisten Smith’s lips with a damp sponge.

Those moves infuriate daughter Susan Rissman, exacerbating a long-standing family divide that has only deepened since Smith, whose condition deteriorated rapidly, was hospitalized in December with dehydration.

Even though Smith’s attorney tried unsuccessfully in November to name Rissman her father’s legal guardian, Sly has authority over his care and legal affairs. And her decisions, according to court records, appear to be backed by another sister and a brother.

Rissman has been her father’s primary caregiver for the past several years and is against stopping an active treatment regimen for him. She thinks any decision should be left up to Smith because he is able to talk and answer questions.

It is a sad and controversial end for Smith who is at the middle of a family’s fight over control of his care and, ultimately, a significant estate that includes investments and a home valued at $241,000.
But the saga underscores broader issues: The importance of keeping health care plans up-to-date, medical ethics and the gut-wrenching dynamics of end-of-life decisions.

“It’s a nice little messy case,” said Daniel Callahan, president emeritus of the Hastings Center, a research center in Garrison, N.Y., that focuses on topics such as end-of-life care.

Family conflict is not unusual, Callahan and other experts say, because cases are seldom easy to sort out and often feature a tangle of competing forces.

Full Article and Source:
Ind: End of Life Case Spotlights Difficult Decisions

Now-retired judge sanctioned during last weeks on bench

January 4, 2013

Just weeks before retiring, long-serving St. Joseph Probate Judge Peter Nemeth was officially reprimanded for making inappropriate comments to a woman seeking guardianship of a deaf teenager.

The Indiana Supreme Court accepted an agreement Dec. 14 between Nemeth and the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications that Nemeth would be sanctioned with a private reprimand, according to court documents.

Nemeth, who was also a South Bend mayor and city councilman, stepped down from his position at the end of December after serving as probate judge since 1993.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications, which handles allegations of judicial misconduct, filed a complaint in August stemming from two 2011 guardianship hearings.

Full Article & Source:
Now-retired judge sanctioned during last weeks on bench

See Also:
St. Joseph County probate judge accused of misconduct