The Muncie City Court judge removed from office last month abused her authority by wrongly jailing defendants and attempting to silence critics in her courtroom, and disgraced the judiciary by using a racial slur in the streets, according to the Indiana Supreme Court order issued Tuesday.
Dianna L. Bennington was removed from the bench last month after she agreed to the sanction and accepted a permanent ban on holding judicial office after her admission that she violated 10 of the 13 counts against her alleging violations of Rules of Judicial Conduct.
The justices had suspended Bennington in December, after the Judicial Qualifications Commission alleged she had improperly jailed defendants, repeatedly 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 per curiam opinion In the Matter of the Honorable Dianna L. Bennington, Judge of the Muncie City Court, 18S00-1412-JD-733, formalizes the earlier ban on judicial service. The opinion notes Bennington improperly jailed three people, failed to follow proper procedures, and engaged in “injudicious behavior in personal life.”
“The Respondent and the Commission have agreed that for her violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct as described herein, the Respondent shall be permanently banned from serving in any judicial capacity of any kind, including but not limited to service as a judge pro tempore, temporary judge, or private judge,” the opinion says.
“As required by this Court’s order accepting the parties’ agreement, the Respondent has tendered her resignation to the Governor. The Respondent will pay certain costs related to these proceedings as agreed by the parties. Finally, the Respondent is permitted to retain her license to practice law in Indiana.
“This discipline terminates the disciplinary proceedings relating to the circumstances giving rise to this cause. An order taxing costs will be issued separately.”