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JQC files charge against St. Joseph Judge Peter Nemeth

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St. Joseph Probate Judge Peter Nemeth’s comments in denying an interpreter for an 18-year-old deaf person who was the subject of a guardianship proceeding have resulted in disciplinary charges filed by the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission.

Nemeth is alleged to have made derogatory comments suggesting that it was inappropriate that the litigant request that “the taxpayers pay for” an interpreter when the she “hadn’t paid taxes for several years,” according to a statement from the commission. Nemeth denied the request and ordered the litigant to provide a deaf interpreter for the permanent guardianship hearing, but later revised the order after the litigant brought the relevant portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the court office, according to the statement.

The commission announced a notice of the institution of formal proceedings and statement of charges against Nemeth that allege the statements made during hearings in March and May 2011 violated the following rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct:

  •  Rule 1.2, which requires judges to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary;
  •  Rule 2.2, which requires judges to perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially;
  •  Rule 2.3(B), which requires judges to not act, in the performance of judicial duties, in a manner that manifests bias or prejudice; and,
  •  Rule 2.8(b), which requires judges to be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants.

The commission also claims he engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.

Nemeth has served as the judge of St. Joseph Probate Court since 1993 and has been a member of the Indiana bar since 1966. Nemeth may file an answer to the charges with the Indiana Supreme Court within 20 days of receiving notice of the charges. The Indiana Supreme Court then will appoint three judges as masters to conduct a public hearing.

The Indiana Supreme Court has final authority for judicial discipline. The court can dismiss the charges or impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a permanent ban on holding a judicial office in Indiana.

Nemeth’s term ends this year and he is not seeking re-election.

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  • pretextual
    there is nothing here that suggests insult to the deaf person. if he said the foster parent hadnt paid taxes and it was true then so what. the interpreter was provided, no harm no foul. this complaint is most likely pretextual of some unrelated political rivalry and we all know that it probably has nothing to do with deaf and disabled anything. as for insults you insulted me, but thats ok. I am not the one who gets all heated up over offhand comments. people can have an opinion and we dont all need to wet the bed over it.
  • @John
    No, you're stupid. That Deaf son has feeling. I'm sure he felt hurt that the judge insulted him. Her foster mother not paying taxes has nothing to do with him. The judge violated rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct. I know several other judges have insulted Deaf litigants.
    • Correction
      Excuse me, I should have written title VI for limited English litigants, and title II for ADA protections for the deaf.
    • Justified and correct
      I have seen more than one judge belittle deaf litigants and give them a hard time about interpreters when the court is legally required to provide them at no cost, usually because they accept some federal funds and Title VII requires it. Why should disabled or limited English people first have to suffer some sort of humiliating verbal abuse before the judge follows his/her responsibilities and appoints an interpreter?
    • frivolous
      This complaint is stupid. I dont see where the beef is if the interpreter was actually appointed. No harm done. Somebody's trying to shame a judge for an off the cuff remark that is probably true?

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      1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

      2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

      3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

      4. I am sorry to hear this.

      5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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