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Deadline looms for Indy judge

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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.•

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  1. On a related note, I offered the ICLU my cases against the BLE repeatedly, and sought their amici aid repeatedly as well. Crickets. Usually not even a response. I am guessing they do not do allegations of anti-Christian bias? No matter how glaring? I have posted on other links the amicus brief that did get filed (search this ezine, e.g., Kansas attorney), read the Thomas More Society brief to note what the ACLU ran from like vampires from garlic. An Examiner pledged to advance diversity and inclusion came right out on the record and demanded that I choose Man's law or God's law. I wonder, had I been asked to swear off Allah ... what result then, ICLU? Had I been found of bad character and fitness for advocating sexual deviance, what result then ICLU? Had I been lifetime banned for posting left of center statements denigrating the US Constitution, what result ICLU? Hey, we all know don't we? Rather Biased.

  2. It was mentioned in the article that there have been numerous CLE events to train attorneys on e-filing. I would like someone to provide a list of those events, because I have not seen any such events in east central Indiana, and since Hamilton County is one of the counties where e-filing is mandatory, one would expect some instruction in this area. Come on, people, give some instruction, not just applause!

  3. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  4. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  5. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

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