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Former commissioner testifies against judge

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A former Marion County commissioner took the stand against the judge she once worked for, hinting at a pattern of disorganization in his courtroom. However, she took most of the blame for an almost two-year delay in releasing a man who had been cleared of rape charges.

Former Marion Superior Criminal 5 Commissioner Nancy Broyles - off the bench since her retirement in April - testified in the second of a two-day hearing regarding Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins, who now solely faces multiple misconduct charges for alleged dereliction of duty and delay. His hearing began Monday morning and stretched until 8 p.m.; the hearing started again today at 8 a.m. and is expected to last all day.

"To see innuendo after innuendo piled on, it's disheartening," Judge Hawkins said today on a break outside the Indiana Supreme Court's courtroom, where the hearing is being conducted. "Sure, there are blind spots and mistakes may have happened, but they're saying I misled ... I'm not that guy."

The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission in April filed about a dozen charges against Broyles and Judge Hawkins, alleging delay and dereliction of duties relating to the handling of various cases. The counts against Broyles dealt with her involvement with 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 Broyles. She isn't practicing law since her retirement and will never again be able to sit as a judge in any matter, including pro tem work.

Broyles' attorneys, James Voyles and Jennifer Lukemeyer, sat near her as she testified this morning in front of a three-judge panel.

"I was the cause ... I did not handle this well," she testified.

With its witnesses so far, Disciplinary Commission attorney Adrienne Meiring described a disorganized and delay-ridden court that Judge Hawkins failed to adequately supervise.

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.

The nearly dozen witnesses called yesterday included court employees, Buntin and his sister, and Indianapolis attorney Carolyn Rader, who had originally represented Buntin on the post-conviction claim. Witnesses this morning included court staff, as well as Broyles and Judge Hawkins before a lunch break.

Broyles said she regrets the delays and what happened, saying she agonized and stressed about this case and how to best respond to it - even during the delay when she took it under advisement in 2005 and when the post-conviction relief notice came in March 2007. Buntin was released in April 2007.

In taking responsibility, Broyles said she didn't know the exact reasons for the delays, but she had no reason to think the judge had misled anyone on the matter.

"I've never known him to be dishonest; never had anyone accuse him of it," she said. "I can't speak more highly to his honesty than that."

She did indicate that just prior to leaving the bench this spring, a check with court administration showed that Criminal Court 5 continued to have too many PCR cases open, an issue that testimony indicated may have been caused by staff not correctly closing files.

Judge Hawkins spent about an hour prior to the lunch break discussing his educational and professional background, including time as chair of the Indiana Supreme Court's Disciplinary Commission, as well as initial points about his court's operations and setup.

Character witnesses and more testimony from Judge Hawkins were expected this afternoon. Among those testifying were Indianapolis attorney Robert Hammerle.

The three judicial masters - Delaware Circuit Judge Marianne Vorhees, Lake Superior Judge Clarence Murray, and Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker - are presiding over the case and expected to issue a report during the first week of November.

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  1. Your article is a good intro the recent amendments to Fed.R.Civ.P. For a much longer - though not necessarily better -- summary, counsel might want to read THE CHIEF UMPIRE IS CHANGING THE STRIKE ZONE, which I co-authored and which was just published in the January issue of THE VERDICT (the monthly publication of the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association).

  2. Thank you, John Smith, for pointing out a needed correction. The article has been revised.

  3. The "National institute for Justice" is an agency for the Dept of Justice. That is not the law firm you are talking about in this article. The "institute for justice" is a public interest law firm. http://ij.org/ thanks for interesting article however

  4. I would like to try to find a lawyer as soon possible I've had my money stolen off of my bank card driver pressed charges and I try to get the information they need it and a Social Security board is just give me a hold up a run around for no reason and now it think it might be too late cuz its been over a year I believe and I can't get the right information they need because they keep giving me the runaroundwhat should I do about that

  5. It is wonderful that Indiana DOC is making some truly admirable and positive changes. People with serious mental illness, intellectual disability or developmental disability will benefit from these changes. It will be much better if people can get some help and resources that promote their health and growth than if they suffer alone. If people experience positive growth or healing of their health issues, they may be less likely to do the things that caused them to come to prison in the first place. This will be of benefit for everyone. I am also so happy that Indiana DOC added correctional personnel and mental health staffing. These are tough issues to work with. There should be adequate staffing in prisons so correctional officers and other staff are able to do the kind of work they really want to do-helping people grow and change-rather than just trying to manage chaos. Correctional officers and other staff deserve this. It would be great to see increased mental health services and services for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities in the community so that fewer people will have to receive help and support in prisons. Community services would like be less expensive, inherently less demeaning and just a whole lot better for everyone.

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