A Muncie City Court judge hit with a disciplinary proceeding last week should be suspended from the bench, the Judicial Qualifications Commission argued in a petition submitted to the Indiana Supreme Court Monday.
The JQC on Thursday released a 13-count complaint against Judge Dianna Bennington, alleging she improperly jailed defendants, repeated violated statutes and court rules, and engaged in public verbal altercations with her children’s father and others. She also allegedly used a racial slur aimed at an African-American woman that the commission says was videotaped.
“The Commission submits that this extraordinary measure is merited in this situation,” the suspension petition says. Under Admission and Discipline Rule 25V(E), Bennington, a part-time judge, would be suspended with pay if justices grant the request. The commission also recommends appointment of a judge pro tem in Muncie City Court pending completion of the disciplinary process. The court handles about 2,800 misdemeanor and 5,000 infraction cases annually.
The JQC alleges Bennington hasn’t cooperated with its requests for information and missed two scheduled depositions. Bennington has been on a paid voluntary leave of absence since Sept. 29, according to case records.
Because of the allegations against Bennington and questions about how she would handle cases coming before her involving African-Americans, the commission noted Delaware County Prosecutor Jeffrey Arnold informed the county courts he “could no longer in good conscience” file cases before Bennington. Arnold also said he had referred accusations of stalking and other claims against Bennington to a special prosecutor for consideration of possible criminal charges.
Arnold’s letter, as well as affidavits signed by five Delaware County judges, have been filed as part of the case. Three judges noted they met with Bennington on Sept. 29 and encouraged her to seek assistance from the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program, but that Bennington has not communicated with them since mid-October.