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Disciplinary case ends for 1, continues for judge

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A Marion County commissioner has resolved the judicial disciplinary action against her, though a similar case against her supervising judge proceeded today with the start of a two-day hearing.

The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission in April filed nearly two dozen charges against Commissioner Nancy Broyles and Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins, alleging delay and dereliction of duties relating to the handling of various cases. Mostly, the counts dealt with Commissioner Broyles' involvement handling a post-conviction case that resulted in Indianapolis man Harold Buntin being held in prison for nearly two years after DNA evidence cleared him of a 1984 rape.

Late last week, a resolution came in the action against Commissioner Broyles, but details aren't yet available. One of her attorneys, James Voyles, confirmed a resolution has been filed but couldn't elaborate because nothing has been formalized and because the commissioner will testify at Judge Hawkins' hearing Tuesday.

Her case had been consolidated with the one against Judge Hawkins, who appeared today in the Indiana Supreme Court's courtroom for the disciplinary hearing before three judicial masters - Delaware Circuit Judge Marianne Vorhees, Lake Superior Judge Clarence Murray, and Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker.

Disciplinary commission attorney Adrienne Meiring described a disorganized and delay-ridden court where Judge Hawkins failed to provide adequate supervision, while defense attorney Kevin McGoff contended that the sitting judge wasn't personally responsible for actions he wasn't aware of and at no time misled the investigating commission or parties involved in the case.

"While this begins with Mr. Buntin's complaints (against the court), it doesn't end there," Meiring said. "This is not one simple mistake .... When it came to PCRs in Marion Superior 5, it was a court in complete disarray. Judge Hawkins' lack of supervision led to a culture of indifference."

Judicial Qualifications Commission attorney Meg Babcock, who withdrew as counsel in this case to testify, spoke about her initial investigation that led to the disciplinary charges. She couldn't at first determine the case status by the chronological summary and couldn't get access to the file because court staff said it was in an archive storage area.

McGoff admitted that while there was a breakdown in the communication system somewhere, it wasn't the judge's direct fault.

Buntin's attorney, Carolyn Rader, communicated with Commissioner Broyles by e-mail, phone, and inquiry, but chose not to bring it to the judge's attention, she testified.

At one point, four months after the case had been taken under advisement, Rader testified that Commissioner Broyles came to her in mid-2005 in another courtroom and said she needed to get started on work in the Buntin case. That didn't surprise Rader because of the commissioner's well-known delays in issuing rulings that meant attorneys frequently had to check cases to make sure everything was in order. Rader said she also didn't want to file a "lazy judge" motion because that would have created unwanted friction for the court and possibly her client, Buntin.

"I didn't consider going to (Judge) Hawkins as advisable. I didn't want to cause friction between them, didn't want to get her in trouble, didn't want to raise Cain, didn't want to jeopardize Buntin's position," she said.

The hearing is expected to last through Tuesday. A report is expected from the three-judge panel in the first week of November.

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