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Judge facing discipline refused to take deposition oath

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Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown refused to be sworn during a deposition before the Judicial Qualifications Commission – a videotaped moment of defiance used against her Monday at the outset of her weeklong disciplinary case.

Over the objection of Brown’s attorneys, the three-judge panel of special masters allowed into evidence the judge’s videotaped refusal to swear to tell the truth during an Aug. 1 deposition in the case that now includes 47 counts of judicial misconduct.

“I am always an officer of the court,” Brown says in refusing to take the oath. “I am a judge.”

Meanwhile, Brown’s attorneys said the case against her is a result of problems with her court staff and that she’s being singled out for delayed releases of criminal defendants that have happened with other Marion Superior judges.

Brown was the first witness called in a hearing expected to last at least through the end of this week and possibly into next week. Brown wiped away tears as she attempted to explain why she refused to be sworn in the deposition. “I believe I’m always an officer of the court and therefore always bound to the truth,” she said.

“But you decided to do something different today,” JQC attorney Adrienne Meiring said after Brown took an oath before the masters. Retired Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro is presiding over the panel that includes Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure and Lake Superior Judge Sheila M. Moss.

Meiring pointed Brown to rules of evidence requiring witnesses be sworn and admitted into evidence the statutes governing oaths that judges and other public officials such as police officers must take. Taliaferro asked Brown multiple times to explain why she believed she wasn’t required to swear an oath at the deposition.

“I wasn’t basing it on anything other than I’m always an officer of the court,” Brown said.

Meiring argued that Brown’s refusal to be sworn at the deposition illustrated the nature of many of the complaints against her. The charges against Brown include allegations that she delayed release of at least nine defendants – in one case for 22 days – failed to properly oversee her court, was hostile toward parties who came before and retaliated against court staff who complained, among other things.

Meiring opened by using Brown’s alleged words against her – “This isn’t McDonald’s … It’ll get ruled on when it gets ruled on,” Meiring said. “This is not simply a situation of a bad day.

“This is systemic neglect and failing to do her judicial duty,” she said, calling Brown’s demeanor “rampant disrespect and abuse of various court officials and actors who came before her.”

Brown’s attorney Aaron Haith sought to shift blame from the judge to a “sour staff” that he said she inherited when she moved between criminal court divisions at the City-County Building. Brown hears a docket of mainly domestic misdemeanor and Class D felony cases.

“It is a high-stress position for a judge,” Haith said. He said Brown also tried to change the court staff but was unable to do so. He told the judges that the evidence presented to them this week will show questions of staff integrity, staff knowledge and staff training.

The quality of staff performance, Haith said, “can be a help or a hindrance to the court.”

Haith also argued that Brown was being singled out for oversights that she has in common with other judges on the Marion Superior bench. “They all had problems … with delayed releases” of people wrongly held at the Marion County Jail, he said.

“They’re not judged,” Haith said. “Judge Brown is.”

Haith said the Marion Superior Executive Committee has instituted training for judges because of problems of delayed releases for which Brown is being disciplined, and he cited a lack of communications between the courts and the jail for the problem of defendants being held longer than a judge has ordered. “You will find all the judges are suffering or worried” about the problems, Haith told the panel.

Meiring later pressed Brown on her initial responses to the JQC’s charges against her in which she accepted responsibility in some cases and later denied responsibility in an amended response.

“I’m denying that I violated the Code of Judicial Conduct,” Brown said in response to questions about the underlying facts of a case in which a defendant was wrongly jailed.

Meiring argued that Brown had shown a lack of cooperation with the commission, an assertion to which Haith objected. Meiring noted that in depositions, Brown had responded to yes-or-no questions by saying “the record speaks for itself” 106 times.

Brown’s hearing is open to the public and will continue this week in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom or conference room at the Statehouse.
 

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  • Tom, it is pretty much as you say
    As is fairly typical in all Western legal systems founded since Greco-Romantimes, witnesses in Indiana courts are mandated to make an oath or affirmation. The Indiana Court‘s operating procedures codify this rule in an attempt to ensure that all recognize its searing search for the truth. The Court Rules require that ―[b]efore testifying, every witness shall swear or affirm to testify to the truth …‖ Indiana Rule of Evidence 603 (emp.add.) This requirement is further codified atInd.Stat.Ann 34-45-1-2, where the previously quoted sentence is followed by the requirement that ―the mode of administering an oath must be the most consistentwith and binding upon the conscience …‖ An oath is sworn to. An affirmation is affirmed. They have this in common:both subject the person making it to the penalties for perjury and thus meet thecriteria our justice systems seek for testimonial evidence. According to Rule 603 , ― every witness shall swear or affirm to testify to the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth‖ prior to the reception of their testimony. All officers of the court recognize the reason for this solemnization it subjects the testifier to the pains of perjury and awakens in them the need to bevery careful in their testimony.Simple (and usually uncontroverted) logic reveals that an Indiana witnesswho fails to swear or affirm can offer no testimony to the judicial system. From the appellant brief cited in this thread
  • Oath vs Instruction to Tell the Truth
    The oath is just a senseless formality that should be replaced by a simple instruction to the witness that the witness is required to tell the truth.
    • No Oath?
      No bench!
    • although some dare call it corruption
      Of course, the Judge's attorneys will not care, but I think she is acting like a corrupt official by refusing to take an oath ..... but in Indiana, such is my experience, as this brief recounts and argues against ... http://www.scribd.com/doc/63853640/Appellants-reply-brf-112164
    • ... that is the question
      The Judge's attorneys should take a look at section 2 of this brief as well, the Indiana AG saying it is quite OK to rule on nonsworn evidence, to quote a leading light of the left, what difference does it make? http://www.scribd.com/doc/63933086/appellees-brief112164
    • To swear or not to swear ...
      The Judge's attorneys should take a look at section 2 of this brief: http://www.scribd.com/doc/64031269/Appellants-briefandcourtbelowdecision-112164 Her argument about no need to swear has been advanced rigorously by the State of Indiana.

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