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Delayed jail releases common, says witness in judge’s discipline case

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A senior judge who presided in a Marion Superior criminal court for more than a dozen years testified Friday that delayed releases of defendants from jail are a problem with the county’s entire judicial system and not limited to the court of a judge facing discipline for that and other charges.

 “There has been this problem forever,” Senior Judge Barbara Collins testified in the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s case against Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown. Brown faces 47 counts of judicial misconduct, including nine counts related to the delayed release of defendants for periods of time ranging from one to 22 days.

Collins retired from the bench of Marion Superior Criminal Court 8 at the end of 2012, and she estimated that at least once a week during most of that time she would be informed of a defendant who was still behind bars at the Marion County Jail after she had ordered release. Most of the time, it was due to staff failing to enter the judge’s orders, she said.

Collins’ testimony was admitted over the objection of Tom Carusillo, representing the JQC. Carusillo argued the line of questioning wasn’t relevant to the counts against Brown, but retired Judge Viola Taliaferro, presiding over a panel of three special masters, overruled. Brown’s attorney Aaron Haith said the line of questioning would support his argument at the opening of the case Monday that Brown was being singled out for problems endemic in the Marion Superior Courts.

As Brown has alleged, Collins also said many of the problems she encountered with delayed releases arose from staff who refused to follow proper procedures in entering minutes on antiquated computer systems, and that the problems seldom arose from errors made by jail staff.

Collins said that when she took over for a retiring judge she encountered resentments among staff, similar to those which Brown alleged when she moved to a new criminal division courtroom.

“There was a lot of conflict and I had to watch my back,” Collins said of moving into Criminal Court 8 more than a dozen years earlier. She said staff often bickered and left work early with stacks of paperwork that had not been entered. She said there were issues of ghost employment, among other things.

“People just decided they’re not going to do things,” she said.

Carusillo pressed Collins on why she didn’t terminate employees or report those problems to court administrators, and she noted that at the beginning of her time on the Marion Superior bench there wasn’t anyone to report to. She said she did terminate some staff for unexcused absences or for lying to her, and she discussed the problems with delayed releases informally with other judges and attorneys, though not through a formal complaint with the Marion Superior Executive Committee.

“I am very outspoken and I tell it like it is, and I fix things,” Collins said at one point. The problem with delayed releases had improved during the last several months she was on the bench, she said, but she nevertheless still received reports at least a few times a month from public defenders or others of someone held at the jail who she had ordered released.

Carusillo angered Collins at one point by asking whether her level of contact with Haith increased after the commission filed its disciplinary petition against Brown. “I’m affronted by that question,” she said.

Haith followed up and asked Collins whether he would be able to influence her testimony. “There is never anytime you would have told me what to do,” Collins said.

Brown’s hearing is expected to continue through Sunday in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom in the Statehouse. Taliaferro said earlier this week the masters expected to conclude the hearing by the end of the weekend.

The masters will ultimately provide recommendations on what discipline, if any, Brown should receive, and the matter will be decided by the Indiana Supreme Court.


 

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  • Seventh Circuit concerned
    Those who wonder if the Seventh Circuit has concerns about Indiana should read this articlehttp://www.theindianalawyer.com/th-circuit-blasts-lawyers-in-reinstating-malicious-prosecution-suit/PARAMS/article/32662
  • a theme has emerged
    The actions of the Indianapolis judicial authorites (Dixon, Ogden, Farmer, recent 7th cir rebuke, etc) and nonaction (above, Conour, not filing mandatory annual reports, Conour, Conour, Conour) has forged a theme ... Indiana as a third rate banana republic, judicially speaking. My attorney friends from Kansas are constantly amazed by what this paper reports, seemingly without causing any in Indy to even blush. Perhaps, based upon the above testimony, the Seventh Circuit should takeover the Indiana justice system for a few years and install something approximating an American system, or at the very least something that that would not "affront" Lady Justice?

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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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