ILNews

Deadline looms for Indy judge

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The neat handwriting in red ink on a page torn from a legal pad contained a desperate plea from a bewildered young mother held in the Marion County Jail.

“I went to court Jan. 14, 2013, and I was sentenced to do 40 hours of community service work,” the letter to Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown reads, “and I was told by you and my public defender that I was released. … but they still got me sitting here saying I wasn’t released … so please judge, help me.”
 

brown-kimberly Brown

Sharell Lobley had been arrested on a misdemeanor shoplifting charge on Jan. 10, and she couldn’t afford the $150 she needed to make bail, she wrote in the letter to Brown. The letter Lobley signed was dated Jan. 21, a full week after she’d been sentenced under a diversion program and presumed her case was resolved as long as she met the court’s conditions.

But another nine days went by before prosecutors and defense attorneys filed a joint motion Jan. 30 asking Brown to waive the diversion program’s sentence of community service, because Lobley at that point had spent 17 days in jail.

Lobley is one of nine defendants from Brown’s courts who spent one to 22 days behind bars that they should not have, according a complaint alleging 45 counts violating various rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Brown “failed to inquire about defendant Lobley’s ability to make bond, or to complete paperwork to order the defendant released on her own recognizance,” the complaint says.

Brown faces an array of accusations in addition to those that her actions led to the delayed release of defendants. She allegedly created “a hostile environment for attorneys, court staff, clerks, and other court officials.”

The Judicial Qualifications Commission on Aug. 26 asked the Supreme Court to suspend Brown pending disciplinary proceedings, but as of Sept. 5, Brown was still on the bench hearing misdemeanor and Class D felony domestic violence cases. On Sept. 6, the Indiana Surpeme Court issued an order giving Brown until noon Sept. 11 to respond to the request for suspension.

Brown did not respond to a message seeking comment, and her attorney, Aaron Haith, of Choate & Haith, said through a firm representative there would be no immediate comment.

But justices noted in the Sept. 6 order that no attorney had yet appeared for Brown in the JQC matter.

Public defenders familiar with multiple allegations said they could not comment because of the pending matter.

The charges

The charges allege Brown neglected administrative duties and paperwork resulting in the wrongful detentions.

The statement of charges against Brown also asserts that between 2009 and January 2013, when Brown was elected to serve as judge either in Criminal Division 16 or 7, she failed to do necessary paperwork or properly train and supervise staff and court officers. She also is accused of improperly converting jury trials to bench trials and causing multiple needless delays.

Several of the counts against Brown allege she treated defense and prosecuting attorneys and clerks and court officers in a rude and discourteous manner. She “routinely displayed inappropriate demeanor toward Court 16 staff and maintained a hostile environment by making derogatory and inappropriate comments about other court staff, court officials, and attorneys in front of staff members and by engaging in other hostile behaviors.”

Brown is accused of failing to timely act on motions before her in multiple instances, and when lawyers called her office daily and court staff approached her about it, she “sometimes responded to the effect of, ‘This isn’t a McDonald’s, you can’t get what you want when you want it’ or ‘I refuse to be held captive,’” according to the complaint.

The complaint says Brown held public defenders to a different standard than private attorneys. Court staff members allege that she frequently told them she “hated” certain defenders and referred to them as “stupid.”

In one instance, Brown is accused of snapping at a public defender who corrected the judge that the client’s next court date was a jury trial rather than a bench trial. Brown is alleged to have said, “You’re very close to contempt. … I suggest that you stop. You are disrupting this court’s procedures.”

Brown also is accused of treating court staff badly, making unflattering comments about their weight, and in one case banning a deputy clerk from her courtroom. Her court had the highest turnover rate of any Marion Superior court, with 14 different employees from 2009 to 2012. Brown later hired bailiffs and a court reporter with no court experience, the complaint alleges.

The judge also is accused of firing her former chief bailiff, Tamara Harrell, in August 2012 because Brown “believed that Harrell had provided information to, or was going to file a complaint with, the Judicial Qualifications Commission.”

Much of the complaint centers on failings to properly stay on top of paperwork, some of which could be attributed to conflicts with clerks. “The inability to locate files in Court 16 became so pronounced that the clerk’s office for a time maintained a log of all files the deputy clerk transferred to the judge,” according to the notice of proceedings.

As of Sept. 9, no date had been set for proceedings before the Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to the online docket of the Supreme Court.•

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Call it unauthorized law if you must, a regulatory wrong, but it was fraud and theft well beyond that, a seeming crime! "In three specific cases, the hearing officer found that Westerfield did little to no work for her clients but only issued a partial refund or no refund at all." That is theft by deception, folks. "In its decision to suspend Westerfield, the Supreme Court noted that she already had a long disciplinary history dating back to 1996 and had previously been suspended in 2004 and indefinitely suspended in 2005. She was reinstated in 2009 after finally giving the commission a response to the grievance for which she was suspended in 2004." WOW -- was the Indiana Supreme Court complicit in her fraud? Talk about being on notice of a real bad actor .... "Further, the justices noted that during her testimony, Westerfield was “disingenuous and evasive” about her relationship with Tope and attempted to distance herself from him. They also wrote that other aggravating factors existed in Westerfield’s case, such as her lack of remorse." WOW, and yet she only got 18 months on the bench, and if she shows up and cries for them in a year and a half, and pays money to JLAP for group therapy ... back in to ride roughshod over hapless clients (or are they "marks") once again! Aint Hoosier lawyering a great money making adventure!!! Just live for the bucks, even if filthy lucre, and come out a-ok. ME on the other hand??? Lifetime banishment for blowing the whistle on unconstitutional governance. Yes, had I ripped off clients or had ANY disciplinary history for doing that I would have fared better, most likely, as that it would have revealed me motivated by Mammon and not Faith. Check it out if you doubt my reading of this, compare and contrast the above 18 months with my lifetime banishment from court, see appendix for Bar Examiners report which the ISC adopted without substantive review: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS

  2. Wow, over a quarter million dollars? That is a a lot of commissary money! Over what time frame? Years I would guess. Anyone ever try to blow the whistle? Probably not, since most Hoosiers who take notice of such things realize that Hoosier whistleblowers are almost always pilloried. If someone did blow the whistle, they were likely fired. The persecution of whistleblowers is a sure sign of far too much government corruption. Details of my own personal experience at the top of Hoosier governance available upon request ... maybe a "fake news" media outlet will have the courage to tell the stories of Hoosier whistleblowers that the "real" Hoosier media (cough) will not deign to touch. (They are part of the problem.)

  3. So if I am reading it right, only if and when African American college students agree to receive checks labeling them as "Negroes" do they receive aid from the UNCF or the Quaker's Educational Fund? In other words, to borrow from the Indiana Appellate Court, "the [nonprofit] supposed to be [their] advocate, refers to [students] in a racially offensive manner. While there is no evidence that [the nonprofits] intended harm to [African American students], the harm was nonetheless inflicted. [Black students are] presented to [academia and future employers] in a racially offensive manner. For these reasons, [such] performance [is] deficient and also prejudice[ial]." Maybe even DEPLORABLE???

  4. I'm the poor soul who spent over 10 years in prison with many many other prisoners trying to kill me for being charged with a sex offense THAT I DID NOT COMMIT i was in jail for a battery charge for helping a friend leave a boyfriend who beat her I've been saying for over 28 years that i did not and would never hurt a child like that mine or anybody's child but NOBODY wants to believe that i might not be guilty of this horrible crime or think that when i say that ALL the paperwork concerning my conviction has strangely DISAPPEARED or even when the long beach judge re-sentenced me over 14 months on a already filed plea bargain out of another districts court then had it filed under a fake name so i could not find while trying to fight my conviction on appeal in a nut shell people are ALWAYS quick to believe the worst about some one well I DID NOT HURT ANY CHILD EVER IN MY LIFE AND HAVE SAID THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS please if anybody can me get some kind of justice it would be greatly appreciated respectfully written wrongly accused Brian Valenti

  5. A high ranking Indiana supreme Court operative caught red handed leading a group using the uber offensive N word! She must denounce or be denounced! (Or not since she is an insider ... rules do not apply to them). Evidence here: http://m.indianacompanies.us/friends-educational-fund-for-negroes.364110.company.v2#top_info

ADVERTISEMENT