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Justices: judicial discipline now moot

January 6, 2009

The Indiana Supreme Court has ended a disciplinary action against a former LaPorte Superior judge who'd served in senior capacity for three years because that jurist has retired and will no longer practice law.

A unanimous order issued by the court today dismisses without prejudice the case against Judge Walter P. Chapala, who faced five misconduct accusations for his actions while serving as an elected judge from 2001 to 2004. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications late last year accused him of suspending a defendant's sentence in exchange for donations to court programs, and also the judge's alleged involvement in a relative's case over which he presided.

A two-day hearing was set to begin March 12, but that's now been dismissed. The judge has been acting in senior status since 2005, but is no longer certified in that capacity, and he filed a retirement affidavit on Feb. 25, according to the court order.

"The allegations of misconduct here are most serious," the court wrote. "But the effect of the most likely sanctions that this Court would impose if it were to find Judge Chapala guilty has already been achieved with his resignation from the bench, the termination of his service as a Senior Judge, and his retirement from the bar. We therefore find that the matter is effectively moot and the continued litigation of this matter an inefficient use of limited judicial resources."

The judicial disciplinary commission can re-file charges against Judge Chapala if he ever seeks reinstatement as an attorney in Indiana or anywhere else.

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