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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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