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Commission admonishes Howard County judge

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A Howard Superior judge has received a public admonition for his April 2008 actions in that county's prosecutor's office. In lieu of filing formal disciplinary proceedings, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications issued the admonition, as allowed by the Indiana Supreme Court.

Judge Stephen M. Jessup was admonished by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications for violating Cannons 1, 2, and 3B(4) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The judge believed a Howard County deputy prosecutor had ignored a demand from him in 2007 to let the court know if he'd be unavailable for any court appearance. In April 2008, another deputy prosecutor substituted for the assigned deputy in Judge Jessup's court. This caused Judge Jessup to go to the courthouse office of the elected prosecuting attorney to find the deputy prosecutor. While there, he made a personally and professionally damaging statement saying the deputy prosecutor was "off popping pills" or "shooting drugs." He ordered the deputy prosecutor to court the following Monday and interrogated him about his absence on the preceding Friday. During that meeting, the judge's "demeanor and temperament again fell far below the standard expected of judges," according to the public admonition.

Judge Jessup has apologized to the deputy prosecutor and acknowledges he has no personal knowledge on which to base his statements and that his meeting with the deputy prosecutor fell below the expected standards.

Judge Jessup told Indiana Lawyer that he could not comment on specifics of the disciplinary action or the deputy prosecutor involved, though he did confirm that he's recused himself from cases involving that attorney.

The judge will not be formally charged with ethical misconduct in light of his consent to the admonition.

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