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Commission: Suspend Judge Kimberly Brown

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Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown circumvented the three-judge panel that heard her disciplinary case with a direct appeal to the Indiana Supreme Court, the presiding judge said in striking her last-minute apology and an affidavit in her support from former Justice Frank Sullivan.

Meanwhile, the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission is asking for Brown's suspension with pay while the court considers the special masters' request that she be removed from the bench.

“If the Court adopts the Masters' and the Commission's recommendations and issues an order or removal, the Commission asks the Court, at that time, also to find (Brown) permanently ineligible for judicial office,” commission counsel Adrienne Meiring recommended in a Jan. 3 filing.

In a filing a day earlier, retired Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro struck Brown's Dec. 11 filing that submitted to discipline and suggested a 60-day suspension. “The proposal in Brown's Submission is rejected, the Affidavits submitted are stricken, and Brown's Motion for leave to file a reply to the Commission's Answer is denied,” she wrote. Taliaferro presides over the three-judge panel of special masters that heard Brown's disciplinary case.

Taliaferro wrote that Brown failed to show cause for not filing findings after her hearing. Instead, “Brown by-passed the Panel of Special Masters” with the Dec. 11 filing that advocated a 60-day suspension and included Sullivan's affidavit. “The submission was later supplied to the Special Masters by the Supreme Court,” Taliaferro wrote.

The commission asked the masters to strike the filings as untimely and outside the record, and the panel agreed. “In that evidence has been heard, concluded and the cause submitted to the special masters for ruling, Brown's chance to apologize, show mitigating circumstances, and recommend proposed discipline has passed,” Taliaferro wrote.

The commission would be unduly prejudiced if Brown's filing or Sullivan's affidavit were admitted without the opportunity to cross-examine the parties, she wrote. The panel stands on its recommendation that Brown be removed from the bench but clarified that the masters do not recommend suspending Brown's law license.

Taliaferro and the other judges on the panel -- Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure and Lake Superior Judge Sheila M. Moss – concluded last month that the commission had proven 46 of 47 counts against Brown.

Allegations against Brown include wrongful detention of at least nine criminal defendants, failing to properly oversee her court, improperly supervising trials, failing to act on Court of Appeals orders, showing hostility toward parties who came before her, and retaliating against court staff who complained.
 

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  2. Seventh Circuit Court Judge Diane Wood has stated in “The Rule of Law in Times of Stress” (2003), “that neither laws nor the procedures used to create or implement them should be secret; and . . . the laws must not be arbitrary.” According to the American Bar Association, Wood’s quote drives home this point: The rule of law also requires that people can expect predictable results from the legal system; this is what Judge Wood implies when she says that “the laws must not be arbitrary.” Predictable results mean that people who act in the same way can expect the law to treat them in the same way. If similar actions do not produce similar legal outcomes, people cannot use the law to guide their actions, and a “rule of law” does not exist.

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