ILNews

Marion Superior Judge Brown’s discipline case likely one for the record books

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The 47-count case against a Marion Superior judge appears to be the most voluminous judicial discipline proceeding in the state’s history, according to people familiar with the case and matters of judicial discipline.

Brown Brown

Marion Superior Criminal Court 7 Judge Kimberly Brown withstood seven consecutive days of hearings that concluded Nov. 10 before a panel of three special masters appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court: retired Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro, Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure and Lake Superior Judge Sheila M. Moss.

Judicial Qualifications Commission attorney Adrienne Meiring called 39 witnesses against Brown, and the state compiled more than 190 exhibits alleging a catalog of judicial misconduct. Witnesses often fumbled through three oversized ring binders each filled with several hundred pages of documents.

The unusual hearings in the Indiana Supreme Court courtroom featured testimony from a number of Brown’s current and former colleagues and court staff to the special masters. The case opened with video of Brown refusing to take an oath to tell the truth during a deposition.

Brown is accused of delayed releases of at least nine defendants from the Marion County Jail, in one case for 22 days. Brown also is accused of a host of rule violations that involved failing to properly oversee her court, improperly supervising trials, failing to act on Court of Appeals orders, showing hostility toward parties who came before her, and retaliating against court staff who complained, among other things.

Marion Superior Master Commissioner Deborah Shook testified that after the commission began investigating Brown, working in her court became intolerable. “I asked to be removed,” Shook testified. “It was becoming a very stressful environment, and it was affecting my health.” She said she had the impression she was being “set up” by Brown.

Shook said it was difficult as an officer of the court to testify in such a proceeding. “It’s stressful, and I feel sorry that we are all here,” she said haltingly at one point.

Brown’s attorney Aaron Haith argued his client was being singled out for problems that he said were persistent among judges on the Marion Superior criminal bench. “They all had problems … with delayed releases,” he said.

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

Haith said the Marion Superior Executive Committee instituted training for judges because of problems of delayed releases, 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.

Senior Judge Barbara Collins, who retired from Marion Superior Criminal Court 8 at the end of 2012, buttressed Brown’s argument of systemic dysfunction. 

“There has been this problem forever,” Collins testified about delayed releases from jail, estimating that at least once a week during most of her time on the criminal bench she learned of a defendant behind bars after she ordered a release. Most of the time, it was due to staff failing to enter orders, she said.

As Brown alleged, Collins also said many of the problems she encountered with delayed releases arose from staff refusing to follow proper procedures when making minute entries on antiquated computer systems. The problems seldom arose from errors made by jail staff, Collins said.

Haith sought to shift blame from Brown to a “sour staff” that he said she inherited when she moved between criminal court divisions at the Indianapolis 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. Brown also tried to change the court staff but was unable to do so, he explained. He noted problems of staff integrity, knowledge and training and said the quality of staff performance “can be a help or a hindrance to the court.”

Collins testified that when she took over for a retiring judge years back she encountered resentments among staff, similar to those Brown alleged after she moved to a new criminal division courtroom.“There was a lot of conflict and I had to watch my back,” Collins said of moving into Criminal Court 8 more than a dozen years earlier. She said staff often bickered and left work early leaving stacks of unfinished paperwork.

“People just decided they’re not going to do things,” she said.

Commission attorney Tom Carusillo pressed Collins on why she didn’t terminate employees or report those problems to court administrators, and she noted that at the beginning of her time on the Marion Superior bench there wasn’t anyone to report to. She said she did terminate some staff for unexcused absences or for lying to her, and she discussed the problems of delayed releases informally with other judges and attorneys, though not through a formal complaint with the Marion Superior Executive Committee.

Carusillo angered Collins at one point by asking whether her level of contact with Haith increased after the commission filed its disciplinary petition against Brown. “I’m affronted by that question,” she said.

Haith followed up by asking Collins whether he would be able to influence her testimony. “There is never any time you would have told me what to do,” Collins said.

Meiring focused at the outset on the video of Brown’s deposition. “I am always an officer of the court,” Brown says, refusing to be sworn. “I am a judge.” The first witness called, Brown tearfully testified that she simply made a decision not to be sworn.

“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,” Meiring responded, noting Brown took an oath before testifying in front of the masters.

Presiding over the panel, 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 used Brown’s moment of defiance from the deposition video to further the narrative of a rogue judge with little respect for the rules or her peers and colleagues. She quoted Brown’s alleged words to practitioners inquiring about overdue rulings – “This isn’t McDonald’s … It’ll get ruled on when it gets ruled on.”

“This is not simply a situation of a bad day,” she said, “This is systemic neglect and failing to do her judicial duty.” Meiring called Brown’s demeanor “rampant disrespect and abuse of various court officials and actors who came before her.”

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

The Indiana Supreme Court in September chose not to suspend Brown after the commission sought the immediate sanction. Justices instead scheduled the hearings on an expedited basis and appointed the special masters. The masters’ report and transcripts of the hearing are due by Dec. 30, after which the court will rule. Action taken by the Supreme Court can range from no discipline to removal from the bench.•
 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Corrupt Crap!
    The whole Marion County judicial system is rife with corruption beginning with the way judges are selected through the slating process - a candidate buys his/her way in and is then guarantied a judgeship. The staffs are mostly political partisan hacks rather than professionals. Judge Brown's problems are a small symptom of the underlying problems. Look into it and shine a light on it. It's a disgrace.
  • The race card
    It appears that Judge Brown's attorney is playing the race card. Race may indeed be at issue in this case. Would the system have allowed Judge Brown to stay on the bench so long if she was white? Would the system have taken so long to move against Judge Brown if it was white middle class college kids she was forgetting to release from jail? Would those in the system have been more reticent or less reticent to file complaints against Kim Brown were she not a poster child for diversity politics? Hard questions that need to be asked if the race card is to be played.
  • More information please
    I would like to know how long Judge Kim Brown was on the court and how long this "systemic breakdown" in basic due process and justice has been evident. This seems an indictment of the entire system that such a judge can occupy the bench for more than a month or two. So .... how far back do the allegations go? Is this another Conour situation, only "merely" involving freedom and due process rather than funds allegedly under management?

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. File under the Sociology of Hoosier Discipline ... “We will be answering the complaint in due course and defending against the commission’s allegations,” said Indianapolis attorney Don Lundberg, who’s representing Hudson in her disciplinary case. FOR THOSE WHO DO NOT KNOW ... Lundberg ran the statist attorney disciplinary machinery in Indy for decades, and is now the "go to guy" for those who can afford him .... the ultimate insider for the well-to-do and/or connected who find themselves in the crosshairs. It would appear that this former prosecutor knows how the game is played in Circle City ... and is sacrificing accordingly. See more on that here ... http://www.theindianalawyer.com/supreme-court-reprimands-attorney-for-falsifying-hours-worked/PARAMS/article/43757 Legal sociologists could have a field day here ... I wonder why such things are never studied? Is a sacrifice to the well connected former regulators a de facto bribe? Such questions, if probed, could bring about a more just world, a more equal playing field, less Stalinist governance. All of the things that our preambles tell us to value could be advanced if only sunshine reached into such dark worlds. As a great jurist once wrote: "Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman." Other People's Money—and How Bankers Use It (1914). Ah, but I am certifiable, according to the Indiana authorities, according to the ISC it can be read, for believing such trite things and for advancing such unwanted thoughts. As a great albeit fictional and broken resistance leaders once wrote: "I am the dead." Winston Smith Let us all be dead to the idea of maintaining a patently unjust legal order.

  2. The Department of Education still has over $100 million of ITT Education Services money in the form of $100+ million Letters of Credit. That money was supposed to be used by The DOE to help students. The DOE did nothing to help students. The DOE essentially stole the money from ITT Tech and still has the money. The trustee should be going after the DOE to get the money back for people who are owed that money, including shareholders.

  3. Do you know who the sponsor of the last-minute amendment was?

  4. Law firms of over 50 don't deliver good value, thats what this survey really tells you. Anybody that has seen what they bill for compared to what they deliver knows that already, however.

  5. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

ADVERTISEMENT