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Delayed jail releases common, says witness in judge’s discipline case

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A senior judge who presided in a Marion Superior criminal court for more than a dozen years testified Friday that delayed releases of defendants from jail are a problem with the county’s entire judicial system and not limited to the court of a judge facing discipline for that and other charges.

 “There has been this problem forever,” Senior Judge Barbara Collins testified in the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s case against Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown. Brown faces 47 counts of judicial misconduct, including nine counts related to the delayed release of defendants for periods of time ranging from one to 22 days.

Collins retired from the bench of Marion Superior Criminal Court 8 at the end of 2012, and she estimated that at least once a week during most of that time she would be informed of a defendant who was still behind bars at the Marion County Jail after she had ordered release. Most of the time, it was due to staff failing to enter the judge’s orders, she said.

Collins’ testimony was admitted over the objection of Tom Carusillo, representing the JQC. Carusillo argued the line of questioning wasn’t relevant to the counts against Brown, but retired Judge Viola Taliaferro, presiding over a panel of three special masters, overruled. Brown’s attorney Aaron Haith said the line of questioning would support his argument at the opening of the case Monday that Brown was being singled out for problems endemic in the Marion Superior Courts.

As Brown has alleged, Collins also said many of the problems she encountered with delayed releases arose from staff who refused to follow proper procedures in entering minutes on antiquated computer systems, and that the problems seldom arose from errors made by jail staff.

Collins said that when she took over for a retiring judge she encountered resentments among staff, similar to those which Brown alleged when she moved to a new criminal division courtroom.

“There was a lot of conflict and I had to watch my back,” Collins said of moving into Criminal Court 8 more than a dozen years earlier. She said staff often bickered and left work early with stacks of paperwork that had not been entered. She said there were issues of ghost employment, among other things.

“People just decided they’re not going to do things,” she said.

Carusillo pressed Collins on why she didn’t terminate employees or report those problems to court administrators, and she noted that at the beginning of her time on the Marion Superior bench there wasn’t anyone to report to. She said she did terminate some staff for unexcused absences or for lying to her, and she discussed the problems with delayed releases informally with other judges and attorneys, though not through a formal complaint with the Marion Superior Executive Committee.

“I am very outspoken and I tell it like it is, and I fix things,” Collins said at one point. The problem with delayed releases had improved during the last several months she was on the bench, she said, but she nevertheless still received reports at least a few times a month from public defenders or others of someone held at the jail who she had ordered released.

Carusillo angered Collins at one point by asking whether her level of contact with Haith increased after the commission filed its disciplinary petition against Brown. “I’m affronted by that question,” she said.

Haith followed up and asked Collins whether he would be able to influence her testimony. “There is never anytime you would have told me what to do,” Collins said.

Brown’s hearing is expected to continue through Sunday in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom in the Statehouse. Taliaferro said earlier this week the masters expected to conclude the hearing by the end of the weekend.

The masters will ultimately provide recommendations on what discipline, if any, Brown should receive, and the matter will be decided by the Indiana Supreme Court.


 

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  • Seventh Circuit concerned
    Those who wonder if the Seventh Circuit has concerns about Indiana should read this articlehttp://www.theindianalawyer.com/th-circuit-blasts-lawyers-in-reinstating-malicious-prosecution-suit/PARAMS/article/32662
  • a theme has emerged
    The actions of the Indianapolis judicial authorites (Dixon, Ogden, Farmer, recent 7th cir rebuke, etc) and nonaction (above, Conour, not filing mandatory annual reports, Conour, Conour, Conour) has forged a theme ... Indiana as a third rate banana republic, judicially speaking. My attorney friends from Kansas are constantly amazed by what this paper reports, seemingly without causing any in Indy to even blush. Perhaps, based upon the above testimony, the Seventh Circuit should takeover the Indiana justice system for a few years and install something approximating an American system, or at the very least something that that would not "affront" Lady Justice?

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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