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Judge argues for suspension, not removal

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A Marion Superior judge who's been suspended from the bench pending a final decision from the Indiana Supreme Court believes his penalty should fall somewhere between a public reprimand and removal.

In a 41-page review petition and 37-page support brief filed Dec. 11, Indianapolis attorney Kevin McGoff - who is representing Judge Grant W. Hawkins - explains why the judge shouldn't be removed from the Criminal Court 5 post he's held since January 2001.

The Indiana Supreme Court's Commission on Judicial Qualifications charged Judge Hawkins in April with misconduct, largely tied to case delays that resulted in Harold Buntin spending nearly two years in prison after DNA evidence cleared him of a rape. A three-master panel has recommended his removal from the bench and the commission agreed; the judge since has been suspended from the bench without pay until the Indiana Supreme Court decides his fate.

His former commissioner, Nancy Broyles, who handled the Buntin post-conviction case and was charged with similar counts, has since resigned and been permanently banned from any future judicial post as a result of the action against her.

Instead of removal, Judge Hawkins is asking that the Supreme Court consider a suspension with pay.

Multiple reasons exist as to why the judge shouldn't be removed, his petition and brief state, including: Buntin was in fact not innocent of the crime and that's been inaccurately portrayed to the public; the judge's stellar reputation in the legal community; that no finding was made that he deliberately deceived or misled anyone during the investigation; that many others with hands in the system played a part in this situation; and that the judge has made numerous court modifications that include creating a file database and increasing staff training and communication to prevent similar delays from happening again.

"Mistakes are made in human endeavor at every level and there is no immunity from the human fallibility that one will make mistakes," the response brief says. "When a public servant makes a mistake, it does not demand that one lose his or her job. This is not and should not be the standard in the field of judicial discipline."

His review petition notes that Judge Hawkins did make mistakes in supervising staff and his commissioner, but it also points out that examples have been found throughout Indiana where courts have let people out of jail too early or kept them too long because of similar errors.

"The goal should be to identify mistakes and correct them, not to unduly punish an honest and hardworking jurist when errors occur," the petition says. "There is always room for improvement in our system."

McGoff argues in the brief that the Supreme Court should not rely on a past judicial disciplinary case of Matter of Kouros, 816 N.E.2d 21 (Ind. 2004), which resulted in the twice-suspended Lake Superior Judge Joan Kouros being removed permanently for creating a backlog of cases and failing to even provide accurate information allowing for adequate outside monitoring. Kouros had a history of mismanagement and disciplinary actions against her prior to the removal decision, Judge Hawkins argues in the brief. That didn't happen in this Marion County case.

Instead, the Supreme Court should use Matter of Newman, 858 N.E.2d 632 (Ind. 2006), as guidance because it's more in line with what happened in this case, the brief says. In Newman, Madison Superior Judge Thomas Newman Jr. received a public reprimand resulting from administrative disorganization and inaction. He'd failed to send an order to the Department of Correction after the appellate court overturned a decision that a defendant had violated parole and needed to serve the remainder of a sentence. That man served more than a year before learning about his appellate win.

The similarity of the facts in both Newman and Hawkins suggests the appropriate sanction for Judge Hawkins should be more in line with that previous case, the brief states. Although Judge Hawkins didn't reach an agreement with the Judicial Qualifications Commission as Judge Newman had, and that likely means more than a public reprimand, the two penalties shouldn't be so dramatically different, the brief says.

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  1. What a fine article, thank you! I can testify firsthand and by detailed legal reports (at end of this note) as to the dire consequences of rejecting this truth from the fine article above: "The inclusion and expansion of this right [to jury] in Indiana’s Constitution is a clear reflection of our state’s intention to emphasize the importance of every Hoosier’s right to make their case in front of a jury of their peers." Over $20? Every Hoosier? Well then how about when your very vocation is on the line? How about instead of a jury of peers, one faces a bevy of political appointees, mini-czars, who care less about due process of the law than the real czars did? Instead of trial by jury, trial by ideological ordeal run by Orwellian agents? Well that is built into more than a few administrative law committees of the Ind S.Ct., and it is now being weaponized, as is revealed in articles posted at this ezine, to root out post moderns heresies like refusal to stand and pledge allegiance to all things politically correct. My career was burned at the stake for not so saluting, but I think I was just one of the early logs. Due, at least in part, to the removal of the jury from bar admission and bar discipline cases, many more fires will soon be lit. Perhaps one awaits you, dear heretic? Oh, at that Ind. article 12 plank about a remedy at law for every damage done ... ah, well, the founders evidently meant only for those damages done not by the government itself, rabid statists that they were. (Yes, that was sarcasm.) My written reports available here: Denied petition for cert (this time around): http://tinyurl.com/zdmawmw Denied petition for cert (from the 2009 denial and five year banishment): http://tinyurl.com/zcypybh Related, not written by me: Amicus brief: http://tinyurl.com/hvh7qgp

  2. Justice has finally been served. So glad that Dr. Ley can finally sleep peacefully at night knowing the truth has finally come to the surface.

  3. While this right is guaranteed by our Constitution, it has in recent years been hampered by insurance companies, i.e.; the practice of the plaintiff's own insurance company intervening in an action and filing a lien against any proceeds paid to their insured. In essence, causing an additional financial hurdle for a plaintiff to overcome at trial in terms of overall award. In a very real sense an injured party in exercise of their right to trial by jury may be the only party in a cause that would end up with zero compensation.

  4. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  5. This article proved very enlightening. Right ahead of sitting the LSAT for the first time, I felt a sense of relief that a score of 141 was admitted to an Indiana Law School and did well under unique circumstances. While my GPA is currently 3.91 I fear standardized testing and hope that I too will get a good enough grade for acceptance here at home. Thanks so much for this informative post.

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