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Hammond traffic judge faces misconduct charges

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Hammond City Judge Jeffrey A. Harkin faces three misconduct charges for operating an illegal traffic school deferral program and dismissing cases without assessing required fees, as well as dissuading one litigant from contesting a seatbelt violation in court.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed formal charges against the city judge June 30; the charges relating to his conduct stretch back at least five years.

Two of the professional misconduct charges involve Judge Harkin’s operation of a traffic school deferral program that only the prosecutor is allowed by law to operate, and then conditionally dismissing infractions because of attendance. The Hammond City Court Traffic School was usually taught by city police officers Thursday evenings or Saturday mornings at the court.

Judge Harkin would tell the litigants that their case would be dismissed and no points assessed on their driver's licenses if they paid an administrative fee and successfully completed the traffic school class, the complaint says.

That practice was ongoing between 2005 and early 2011, with an administrative fee of $75 charged from 2005 to 2009 and then $100 starting last year. Instead of distributing money to the state, county, and city as required, the judge unlawfully distributed 60 percent of the administrative fee to Hammond for renting the meeting rooms and 40 percent to the Northwest Indiana Traffic School to administer the program.

An estimated $180,000 in fees should have been distributed to the state and county between January 2010 and March 2011, according to the charging document.

Despite annual audit warnings from the State Board of Accounts from 2005 to 2010, Judge Harkin continued operating the school and not assessing the required court costs against those defendants who successfully completed the courses, the complaint says.

A third misconduct charge stems from an August 2010 seatbelt violation case where defendant Matthew Aubrey alleged the judge made inappropriate comments to him and dissuaded him from contesting the ticket in court. When the judge called Aubrey’s name for the hearing to begin, the man said he had paperwork and legal analysis to support his defense against the ticket. Judge Harkin rolled his eyes and asked Aubrey if he was an attorney, the charges say, and then the judge suggested Aubrey should not exercise his right to trial. In part, Judge Harkin said it would cost “10 times more than the original ticket” because of court and legal costs, and that convinced Aubrey to admit the infraction.

The judicial qualifications commission alleges that Judge Harkin routinely acted without appropriate statutory or other legal authority in regard to the traffic school program and in not assessing the required court costs, as well as violating the conduct rules with his statements and conduct during the Aubrey proceedings.

On the bench since April 2001, Judge Harkin has no previous disciplinary history. He has 20 days to file an answer – though it’s not required – and then the Indiana Supreme Court would appoint three masters to hear the evidence and conduct a hearing if no settlement is reached. The state’s justices have final authority on any agreement or disciplinary decision, and if any misconduct is found they’d be responsible for any sanctions that might be necessary.

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  • About Time
    Glad someone caught up with him. Was in court with this guy & he refused to hear why my son claimed not guilty. Finally after 3 X's in court they realized that there was a mix up some how, they made us wait & they called the officer (who was not at any of the appearances before) so he could testify to the validity of the ticket. (It was for a right turn on red--The ticket they had in front of them was for speeding, no proof of insurance or registration. I think they had the wrong name also). Now I get a letter (with the wrong name on it but our address) saying that they are going to suspend my sons drivers license because he didn't show up in court or pay the ticket (Wrong name & we paid the ticket that my son got). I remember hearing other people signing up for this class. I know attorneys & I will get this fixed.

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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