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Embattled judge sorry, proposes 60-day suspension

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Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown is apologizing for alleged judicial misconduct that resulted in 47 disciplinary counts against her, proposing to the Indiana Supreme Court that she be suspended for two months. She also says her prior defense, including refusing to take a deposition oath, was “ill-advised.”

“Judge Brown is sorry and apologizes to the (Judicial Qualifications) Commission, the Court and the people of Indiana for her conduct which was prejudicial to the administration of justice and a violation of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct, and asks that a suspension of sixty (60) days be imposed, consistent with prior judicial discipline cases,” according to a filing on Brown’s behalf.

Brown filed a submission to discipline in lieu of submission of findings Wednesday that said she admits to the disciplinary violations in most cases and accepts responsibility for delayed releases of defendants, failure to properly administer cases and hostile treatment of court staff and attorneys.

“Though inexcusable, Judge Brown assures the Court, Commission and the public that none of her actions, or failures to act, in connection with the failure to timely rule on certain matters was intentional,” the brief says.

Brown also submitted an affidavit in which she says she tried to address disciplinary matters after the commission contacted her and expresses regret for the way she is alleged to have behaved toward officers of the court and staff.

“In connection with the allegations of inappropriate demeanor, this action has caused me to engage in careful introspection,” Brown says in the affidavit. “I apologize for any thoughtless, or less than caring statements made, and pledge to conduct myself and the court with the utmost professionalism at all times.”

Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan said the justices will determine what the proper punishment should be in Brown’s case. The JQC previously recommended Brown be removed from office.

Brown’s eight-day-long hearing before a panel of three special masters is believed to be the longest such case on record. Brown was represented by attorneys Aaron Haith and Belle Choate during those hearing but her filing Wednesday was accompanied by the appearance of Bingham Greenebaum Doll LLP partner Karl Mulvaney.

Brown “recognizes that some aspects of her defense were ill-advised, such as her refusal to take the oath when testifying in depositions,” according to the brief prepared by Mulvaney. “She has also retained new counsel to assist with her decision to present this Submission to Discipline and not to submit findings to specifically dispute the facts and charges.”

Brown “believes it is not useful to even attempt to rebut facts and arguments she believes are not well taken by the Commission where it is clear her conduct, and the conduct of the courts for which she was responsible, amounted to conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice,” the filing says.

Former Justice Frank Sullivan Jr. also submitted an affidavit in support of Brown’s motion. Sullivan said he’s known Brown since 2007 and worked with her as an early adopter in implementing the Odyssey Case Management System in the Marion County Small Claims Court in Washington Township.

Sullivan wrote that he was disappointed and saddened by the charges against Brown. “I believe the events surrounding the charges against Judge Brown are the result of a series of unfortunate events and circumstances,” Sullivan says in the affidavit.

The former justice said he’s talked with Brown and counseled her on the need for professionalism and civility. “She advises that she has taken the charges in this regard to heart and that the investigation in this case … caused her to become a better judge.”

Sullivan wrote he offered to mentor Brown and visit her court monthly for a probationary period and report whether Brown is “fulfilling her pledge to maintain a high state of court efficiency and professionalism.”

In support of her argument for a 60-day suspension, Brown cites three prior judicial discipline cases she says are comparable and resulted in that punishment: In re Hawkins, 902 N.E.2d 231 (Ind. 2009), In re Kouras, 816 N.E.2d 21 (Ind. 2004) and In re Danikolas, 838 N.E.2d 422 (Ind. 2005).
 

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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