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Indicted judge to be suspended

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The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has filed a notice with the Indiana Supreme Court for a request of suspension of LaPorte Superior Judge Jennifer Koethe, who was indicted Thursday for attempted obstruction of justice stemming from a shooting incident at her home in December.

Judge Koethe was a judge-elect when she was grazed by a bullet during a shooting in her home Dec. 22, 2008. She was briefly hospitalized and took the bench shortly after the incident.

Commission staff attorney Adrienne Meiring filed the request for suspension today based on Rule 25 of the Indiana Rules of Court for admission and discipline that requires a judicial officer shall be suspended with pay by the Supreme Court upon the filing of an indictment of a felony charge, said Indiana Supreme Court spokesperson Kathryn Dolan.

The grand jury indicted Judge Koethe with attempted obstruction of justice, a Class D felony, finding she requested a handwritten note that was evidence in an official investigation be disposed of, according to court documents. The indictment doesn't specify what the note said.

Her husband, Stephan, was indicted on two counts - Class A misdemeanor false informing, and Class B misdemeanor criminal recklessness for handling and loading a firearm while intoxicated and during an argument with another intoxicated person. Her husband told a local news station shortly after the shooting that the judge accidentally shot herself while handling a gun that she believed was empty.

In January, Special Judge Walter Chapala ordered all firearms removed from the Koethes' home and for the couple to abstain from drinking alcohol whenever Stephan's children from a previous marriage would be in their care. Special Prosecutor Michael A. Dvorak of St. Joseph County asked April 18 for the grand jury investigation of the shooting.

Judge Koethe currently presides in LaPorte Superior 3. As a result of the criminal charge filed against the judge, Lake Superior Judge Thomas P. Stefaniak has been appointed by the Supreme Court to preside over Judge Koethe's case. The entire LaPorte County judiciary recused themselves from hearing the matter to avoid the appearance of impropriety, Dolan said.

Dolan said the Supreme Court is handling the request for suspension as quickly as possible.

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  1. I will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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