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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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