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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. The fee increase would be livable except for the 11% increase in spending at the Disciplinary Commission. The Commission should be focused on true public harm rather than going on witch hunts against lawyers who dare to criticize judges.

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