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Court sanctions Allen County judge

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The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended Allen Superior Judge Kenneth R. Scheibenberger for three days without pay as part of an agreement to resolve a judicial misconduct action.

An 11-page order issued Thursday outlines the sanctions and the circumstances of the judge's actions nearly a year ago, and also offers insight into the court's rationale. All justices concurred with the penalty and that proceeding costs are to be assessed against the judge. The parties had agreed to the penalty beforehand.

A full opinion hasn't been issued, but the court will release one "in due course" that includes details such as when the suspension starts, the order says.

Judge Scheibenberger had been set for a full-day disciplinary hearing before three special masters on Nov. 26, but that now won't happen. He was accused in August of misconduct for his behavior Nov. 30, 2007, in a colleague's courtroom. He's accused of suspending his court and sitting in on a sentencing hearing while wearing his robe, then creating a disturbance with deputy prosecutors before verbally berating a defendant in front of that person's family.

According to the statement attached to the order and accepted by the court, the judge's son had died accidentally prior to the courtroom event and Judge Scheibenberger believed at the time that the defendant in that case had some tangential or indirect role in his son's drug use, which contributed to the death. While he didn't intend on any confrontation, the judge and all parties agreed his conduct was in violation of judicial canons.

The parties agreed that a significant mitigating factor in this action was that Judge Scheibenberger was reacting as a grieving parent, that he's accepted responsibility and is remorseful, and that he's "undertaken appropriate measures to address his grief."

However, the parties also agreed that an aggravating factor in this action is a public admonition Judge Scheibenberger received in 2002 for conduct related to a misdemeanor case involving his son. In that action, the judge obtained his son's file from an employee in the clerk's office and made an entry about an upcoming hearing in the case, which was being handled by a magistrate and was continued to allow more time to prepare.

The judge's Fort Wayne attorney, James Fenton, didn't return a phone call immediately this afternoon, and the judge also didn't immediately return a phone message left at his court.

In his late 50s, the judge has been on the bench since January 1992. He was admitted to the practice in October 1976.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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