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Justices order Marion traffic judge's suspension

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The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended the Marion County traffic judge who’s admitted he imposed excessive fines and treated people unfairly in his court partly because he wanted to discourage future litigants from exercising their constitutional right to trial.

young Young

While the suspension hasn’t yet started, the unanimous order on Nov. 23 suspends Marion Superior Judge William E. Young for 30 days without pay for his conduct dating back to January 2009. A full opinion on this matter will be issued at a later time detailing when the suspension takes effect, according to the Supreme Court’s public information officer Kathryn Dolan. The order says the judge must also pay costs associated with the proceedings.

A disciplinary hearing before three master commissioners had been scheduled for Dec. 8, but this sanction agreed to in November canceled the need for that hearing. Short of that final opinion, this disciplinary sanction effectively closes a chapter for a judge who in the past year has been reversed by the state’s highest appellate courts, criticized by those higher jurists on more than one occasion for his practices and conduct, sued by litigants who’ve claimed unfair treatment and excessive fines in his court, and who’s prompted legislative outrage and revision to state law that now caps how much judges can impose for traffic fines.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications in July formally charged the trial judge with misconduct on allegations that he “engaged in a practice of “imposing substantially higher penalties against traffic court litigants who chose to have trials and lost,” and that Judge Young “routinely made statements implying that litigants should not demand trials and would be penalized for doing so if they lost.”

One case the commission specifically focused on involved the judge’s conduct in the 2009 case of Christian Hollinsworth, who police pulled over in August 2007 for speeding. The case ultimately went to a bench trial last year before Judge Young. Just before the trial started, Hollinsworth’s attorney asked for a brief recess to “sign off” on a plea agreement, but no agreement was reached. The lawyer asked for a continuance, and Judge Young denied that and then wouldn’t allow a plea after Hollingsworth informed the court that she would accept one and didn’t want to proceed to trial.

Court records show that Judge Young “exhibited impatience” during trial by citing the time and his “full afternoon” docket when talking to Hollinsworth about a plea agreement, then told her, “I don’t know if I want to take your plea. I’d rather just go to trial, I think. I don’t like being jerked around at all, all right?” At sentencing, Judge Young noted that Hollinsworth had other pending charges for theft and battery and her attorney said those were alleged charges, to which the judge responded, “Sure they are.”

Hollinsworth received a year in county jail and her driving privileges were suspended for an additional 365 days. The judge also found her to be indigent, and didn’t impose any additional fines or penalties on the speeding conviction.

According to the Judicial Qualifications allegations, the judge “exhibited impatience and frustration” with Hollinsworth and her attorney, and made “sarcastic remarks” while insisting that the trial move forward despite the litigant’s objection.

The Indiana Supreme Court reversed that conviction on June 3 and ordered a new trial in the case of Hollinsworth v. State, No. 49S02-1006-CR-286, pointing specifically to Judge Young’s behavior that violated three judicial conduct canons requiring impartiality, patience, unbiased behavior, and recusal if a judge’s impartiality might be questioned.

“The trial court’s behavior in this case did not meet these standards,” the justices wrote.

In the statement of circumstances issued Nov. 23, Judge Young signed off on facts that included a point that he imposed substantially higher fines against unsuccessful litigants who’d insisted on trials because “he believed that those litigants shouldn’t have pursued trials and, in part, because he wanted to discourage other litigants from exercising their constitutional rights to trials.”

The document also notes the judge routinely did not consider specific circumstances of each case, such as a person’s driving record, in deciding how someone should be fined after the cases had been argued before him and lost.

“Judge Young acknowledges that he should impose the penalty based on an individualized assessment of the litigant and the particular case, even in traffic infraction cases,” the statement says. “Judge Young affirms to the community that he will do so on all future cases in which there is discretion to the penalty imposed as part of the judgment and will give appropriate consideration to each litigant’s specific circumstances.”

Though Judge Young didn’t file an answer to the charges, his agreement affirms the accuracy of the past conduct and those related charges against him. Two of the four counts brought against Judge Young were dismissed, and the agreement upheld counts I and II that delved into multiple Rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct: Rule 1.1 that requires judges to comply with the law; Rule 1.2 that requires judges to uphold the integrity of the judiciary and maintain high standards; Rule 2.2 that requires judges to be fair and impartial; Rule 2.3(A) requiring judges to not be biased or prejudiced; Rule 2.8(B) requiring judges to be patient, dignified, and courteous to lawyers and litigants; and Rule 2.11(A) mandating a judge recuse him or herself if a personal bias or prejudice exists.

In reaching this disciplinary agreement, the judicial commission pointed out that Judge Young has not had any prior misconduct record and he cooperated fully with this investigation. He served as a commissioner presiding over the county’s expedited court from 1995 to 2000 and has been on the bench since 2001. Judge Young presided over the drug court through 2008.

But in the past year, the judge’s conduct has caused uproar in the legislature, legal community, and general public. A federal lawsuit filed late last year accused the Criminal 13 judge of instituting a policy allowing defendants who come before his court and are found guilty to be fined up to an additional $500 just for challenging their tickets. That suit also detailed how the judge closes proceedings to the public. It has been remanded to state court and remains pending, but that litigation prompted outrage from the General Assembly and prompted the statutory changes targeting Judge Young – setting a series of maximum fines within the $500 limit under state law for moving violations that are Class C infractions, including speeding in regular zones and violations at stop signs and lights. The law now takes into account a person’s history of contesting tickets, and it will allow higher fines depending on the individual’s record of unsuccessful attempts on fighting tickets in court.

On top of this discipline, Judge Young faces civil penalties from that case. The Marion Superior Executive Committee has told Indiana Lawyer that it has not discussed reassigning Judge Young from the traffic court.•

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  1. One can only wonder whether Mr. Kimmel was paid for his work by Mr. Burgh ... or whether that bill fell to the citizens of Indiana, many of whom cannot afford attorneys for important matters. It really doesn't take a judge(s) to know that "pavement" can be considered a deadly weapon. It only takes a brain and some education or thought. I'm glad to see the conviction was upheld although sorry to see that the asphalt could even be considered "an issue".

  2. In response to bryanjbrown: thank you for your comment. I am familiar with Paul Ogden (and applaud his assistance to Shirley Justice) and have read of Gary Welsh's (strange) death (and have visited his blog on many occasions). I am not familiar with you (yet). I lived in Kosciusko county, where the sheriff was just removed after pleading in what seems a very "sweetheart" deal. Unfortunately, something NEEDS to change since the attorneys won't (en masse) stand up for ethics (rather making a show to please the "rules" and apparently the judges). I read that many attorneys are underemployed. Seems wisdom would be to cull the herd and get rid of the rotting apples in practice and on the bench, for everyone's sake as well as justice. I'd like to file an attorney complaint, but I have little faith in anything (other than the most flagrant and obvious) resulting in action. My own belief is that if this was medicine, there'd be maimed and injured all over and the carnage caused by "the profession" would be difficult to hide. One can dream ... meanwhile, back to figuring out to file a pro se "motion to dismiss" as well as another court required paper that Indiana is so fond of providing NO resources for (unlike many other states, who don't automatically assume that citizens involved in the court process are scumbags) so that maybe I can get the family law attorney - whose work left me with no settlement, no possessions and resulted in the death of two pets (etc ad nauseum) - to stop abusing the proceedings supplemental and small claims rules and using it as a vehicle for harassment and apparently, amusement.

  3. Been on social security sense sept 2011 2massive strokes open heart surgery and serious ovarian cancer and a blood clot in my lung all in 14 months. Got a letter in may saying that i didn't qualify and it was in form like i just applied ,called social security she said it don't make sense and you are still geting a check in june and i did ,now i get a check from my part D asking for payment for july because there will be no money for my membership, call my prescription coverage part D and confirmed no check will be there.went to social security they didn't want to answer whats going on just said i should of never been on it .no one knows where this letter came from was California im in virginia and been here sense my strokes and vcu filed for my disability i was in the hospital when they did it .It's like it was a error . My ,mothers social security was being handled in that office in California my sister was dealing with it and it had my social security number because she died last year and this letter came out of the same office and it came at the same time i got the letter for my mother benefits for death and they had the same date of being typed just one was on the mail Saturday and one on Monday. . I think it's a mistake and it should been fixed instead there just getting rid of me .i never got a formal letter saying when i was being tsken off.

  4. Employers should not have racially discriminating mind set. It has huge impact on the society what the big players do or don't do in the industry. Background check is conducted just to verify whether information provided by the prospective employee is correct or not. It doesn't have any direct combination with the rejection of the employees. If there is rejection, there should be something effective and full-proof things on the table that may keep the company or the people associated with it in jeopardy.

  5. Unlike the federal judge who refused to protect me, the Virginia State Bar gave me a hearing. After the hearing, the Virginia State Bar refused to discipline me. VSB said that attacking me with the court ADA coordinator had, " all the grace and charm of a drive-by shooting." One does wonder why the VSB was able to have a hearing and come to that conclusion, but the federal judge in Indiana slammed the door of the courthouse in my face.

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