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Justices suspend former judge for misconduct

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The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended a northwest Indiana attorney for helping a litigant whose cases he’d presided over more than a decade ago when he was a Jasper Superior judge.

Earlier this week, the state’s highest court issued a 30-day suspension with automatic reinstatement for Rensselaer lawyer Robert V. Monfort, who had served on the Jasper Superior 2 bench from 1994 until that court closed in 2000. This disciplinary action stems from two criminal drunk driving cases Monfort handled in 1998 for a defendant identified as T.W., in which the judge had convicted and sentenced the man to 365 days behind bars.

In 2009, almost a decade after the Superior court’s closure and Monfort had entered private practice, T.W. contacted the former judge to explore the possibility of having those past convictions vacated. Monfort met with the local prosecutor and when the matter later went to court, T.W. filed a petition that said he was acting pro se. But at a hearing on the petition Monfort sat at the counsel table with T.W. and told the presiding judge that he was not representing the man, but rather was just there to “lay the background for the court.” Later at the hearing, T.W. testified that Monfort’s law office had prepared the petition and that he’d paid for the lawyer’s services.

The Supreme Court’s Disciplinary Commission reached an agreement finding that Monfort had violated three Indiana Professional Conduct Rules – 1.12(a) that prohibits attorneys from representing someone in connection with a matter that the lawyer participated in personally and substantially as a judge without the consent of all parties in the proceeding; 3.3(a)(1) that deals with knowingly making a false statement of fact to a tribunal; and 8.4(c) that prohibits attorneys from engaging in conduct involving deceit or misrepresentation. No aggravators were offered, and the parties agreed the mitigators were that Monfort had no disciplinary history since his admission in 1988, that he expressed remorse, and that he cooperated with the Disciplinary Commission.

“The discipline for Respondent’s misconduct would likely be more severe had this matter been submitted without an agreement,” Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard wrote for the unanimous court, not including Justice Steven David who didn’t participate. “However, in light of the Court’s desire to foster resolutions of lawyer disciplinary cases, the Court now APPROVES and orders the agreed discipline.”
Monfort’s month-long suspension begins June 24, according to the order in The Matter of Robert V. Monfort, 37S00-1008-DI-418.

Before opening his criminal and civil general practice as a solo practitioner, Monfort had presided over the short-lived Jasper Superior 2, which was created in 1990. Judge Patricia Riley held that seat until her appointment in 1993 to the Indiana Court of Appeals, and Monfort succeeded her on the bench. But a legislative omnibus spending law passed in 1995 called for closing the court. Monfort sued to keep it open – that case ended up before the state’s Supreme Court and in 2000 the justices held that the legislature has the constitutional authority to abolish a court of general jurisdiction but that it couldn’t be closed before the current presiding judge’s term expired.
 

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  1. My daughter was taken from my home at the end of June/2014. I said I would sign the safety plan but my husband would not. My husband said he would leave the house so my daughter could stay with me but the case worker said no her mind is made up she is taking my daughter. My daughter went to a friends and then the friend filed a restraining order which she was told by dcs if she did not then they would take my daughter away from her. The restraining order was not in effect until we were to go to court. Eventually it was dropped but for 2 months DCS refused to allow me to have any contact and was using the restraining order as the reason but it was not in effect. This was Dcs violating my rights. Please help me I don't have the money for an attorney. Can anyone take this case Pro Bono?

  2. If justice is not found in a court room, it's time to clean house!!! Even judges are accountable to a higher Judge!!!

  3. The small claims system, based on my recent and current usage of it, is not exactly a shining example of justice prevailing. The system appears slow and clunky and people involved seem uninterested in actually serving justice within a reasonable time frame. Any improvement in accountability and performance would gain a vote from me. Speaking of voting, what do the people know about judges and justice from the bench perspective. I think they have a tendency to "vote" for judges based on party affiliation or name coolness factor (like Stoner, for example!). I don't know what to do in my current situation other than grin and bear it, but my case is an example of things working neither smoothly, effectively nor expeditiously. After this experience I'd pay more to have the higher courts hear the case -- if I had the money. Oh the conundrum.

  4. My dear Smith, I was beginning to fear, from your absense, that some Obrien of the Nanny State had you in Room 101. So glad to see you back and speaking truth to power, old chum.

  5. here is one from Reason magazine. these are not my words, but they are legitimate concerns. http://reason.com/blog/2010/03/03/fearmongering-at-the-splc quote: "The Southern Poverty Law Center, which would paint a box of Wheaties as an extremist threat if it thought that would help it raise funds, has issued a new "intelligence report" announcing that "an astonishing 363 new Patriot groups appeared in 2009, with the totals going from 149 groups (including 42 militias) to 512 (127 of them militias) -- a 244% jump." To illustrate how dangerous these groups are, the Center cites some recent arrests of right-wing figures for planning or carrying out violent attacks. But it doesn't demonstrate that any of the arrestees were a part of the Patriot milieu, and indeed it includes some cases involving racist skinheads, who are another movement entirely. As far as the SPLC is concerned, though, skinheads and Birchers and Glenn Beck fans are all tied together in one big ball of scary. The group delights in finding tenuous ties between the tendencies it tracks, then describing its discoveries in as ominous a tone as possible." --- I wonder if all the republicans that belong to the ISBA would like to know who and why this outfit was called upon to receive such accolades. I remember when they were off calling Trent Lott a bigot too. Preposterous that this man was brought to an overwhelmingly republican state to speak. This is a nakedly partisan institution and it was a seriously bad choice.

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