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Masters call for Marion Superior judge's removal

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A three-judge panel is recommending that a Marion Superior judge be removed from the bench for judicial misconduct.

In a 70-page report filed Thursday and released today in the case of In the Matter of The Hon. Grant W. Hawkins, No. 49S00-0804-JD-0157, the masters found that Judge Hawkins violated canons and committed 10 counts of judicial misconduct relating to how he supervised his court.

The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission had filed charges in April accusing him and former Commissioner Nancy Broyles of misconduct, which in large part led to a pattern of case delays and one that resulted in a wrongfully convicted man, Harold Buntin, being kept in prison almost two years after DNA cleared him of a crime. She has since voluntarily resigned and was permanently banned from the bench, and the panel conducted a two-day hearing for the judge in early October.

That panel - Delaware Circuit Judge Marianne Vorhees, Lake Superior Judge Clarence Murray, and Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker - had until Nov. 24 to issue its findings and recommendations to the court.

At his hearing, Judge Hawkins told the masters that he greatly regrets what happened and vowed to make sure the process is more closely monitored and scrutinized in his courtroom. Drastic changes have already been implemented, he said.

The masters acknowledged his apology and remorse, but they said this case called for a more serious sanction. The masters would have recommended a suspension without pay because of how he generally handled the post-conviction relief issues if it weren't for what resulted in the Buntin case.

The masters don't believe that Judge Hawkins intended to deceive, mislead, or hide anything during the investigation, but that he negligently made misrepresentations caused by his failure to fully investigate the situation. He then failed to correct those misimpressions he and his staff gave - and that failure is the same as the judge deliberately setting out to deceive the commission and the public, the masters wrote.

"We reach these conclusions with great regret and after much thought and do not make this recommendation lightly," the panel wrote. "As trial judges, we know too well how difficult our jobs are, how many demands we have on our time and attention, and how easy it is to make mistakes. The Masters believe, however, the mistakes made in this case were so critical, the loss of liberty so significant, and the Judge's response so lacking, that we as trial judges would not carry out our duty as Masters unless we called for a significant sanction."

A court employee told Indiana Lawyer this morning that Judge Hawkins was on the bench and not immediately available for comment by deadline for this story. His attorney Kevin McGoff with Bingham McHale also couldn't be immediately reached.

Judge Hawkins has been on the Superior 5 bench since 2001. The Indiana Supreme Court has the ultimate say on what sanctions, if any, Judge Hawkins will receive. Sanctions could range from a private or public reprimand to removal.

Justices may receive the case for consideration by the end of the year or early next year following the procedural response times from both sides, according to commission counsel Meg Babcock. Once that happens, justices aren't obligated to issue a decision on any specific timeline.

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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