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Special masters named in senior judge's case

December 19, 2008

The Indiana Supreme Court has named three trial judges to serve as special masters in the disciplinary action against Senior Judge Walter P. Chapala, formerly of the LaPorte Superior Court.

The court appointed Bartholomew Circuit Judge Stephen Heimann, Tippecanoe Superior Judge Loretta Rush, and Brown Circuit Judge Judith Stewart Wednesday to hear the judicial disciplinary case. Judge Heimann will be the presiding master over the case, which comes from the charges lodged against Senior Judge Chapala in late October.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications accused him of five counts of misconduct that he violated ethics rules on two occasions while serving as an elected judge in 2001 and 2004. The accusations involve a sentence suspension in exchange for donations to court programs, and the judge's alleged involvement in a relative's case over which he presided.

The court has asked the masters to determine by mid-January a schedule for a disciplinary hearing, and the court wants the panel to submit a recommendation report by May 1, if the disciplinary action isn't resolved in the meantime.

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