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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. He TIL team,please zap this comment too since it was merely marking a scammer and not reflecting on the story. Thanks, happy Monday, keep up the fine work.

  2. You just need my social security number sent to your Gmail account to process then loan, right? Beware scammers indeed.

  3. The appellate court just said doctors can be sued for reporting child abuse. The most dangerous form of child abuse with the highest mortality rate of any form of child abuse (between 6% and 9% according to the below listed studies). Now doctors will be far less likely to report this form of dangerous child abuse in Indiana. If you want to know what this is, google the names Lacey Spears, Julie Conley (and look at what happened when uninformed judges returned that child against medical advice), Hope Ybarra, and Dixie Blanchard. Here is some really good reporting on what this allegation was: http://media.star-telegram.com/Munchausenmoms/ Here are the two research papers: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0145213487900810 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0145213403000309 25% of sibling are dead in that second study. 25%!!! Unbelievable ruling. Chilling. Wrong.

  4. Mr. Levin says that the BMV engaged in misconduct--that the BMV (or, rather, someone in the BMV) knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged fees but did nothing to correct the situation. Such misconduct, whether engaged in by one individual or by a group, is called theft (defined as knowingly or intentionally exerting unauthorized control over the property of another person with the intent to deprive the other person of the property's value or use). Theft is a crime in Indiana (as it still is in most of the civilized world). One wonders, then, why there have been no criminal prosecutions of BMV officials for this theft? Government misconduct doesn't occur in a vacuum. An individual who works for or oversees a government agency is responsible for the misconduct. In this instance, somebody (or somebodies) with the BMV, at some time, knew Indiana motorists were being overcharged. What's more, this person (or these people), even after having the error of their ways pointed out to them, did nothing to fix the problem. Instead, the overcharges continued. Thus, the taxpayers of Indiana are also on the hook for the millions of dollars in attorneys fees (for both sides; the BMV didn't see fit to avail itself of the services of a lawyer employed by the state government) that had to be spent in order to finally convince the BMV that stealing money from Indiana motorists was a bad thing. Given that the BMV official(s) responsible for this crime continued their misconduct, covered it up, and never did anything until the agency reached an agreeable settlement, it seems the statute of limitations for prosecuting these folks has not yet run. I hope our Attorney General is paying attention to this fiasco and is seriously considering prosecution. Indiana, the state that works . . . for thieves.

  5. I'm glad that attorney Carl Hayes, who represented the BMV in this case, is able to say that his client "is pleased to have resolved the issue". Everyone makes mistakes, even bureaucratic behemoths like Indiana's BMV. So to some extent we need to be forgiving of such mistakes. But when those mistakes are going to cost Indiana taxpayers millions of dollars to rectify (because neither plaintiff's counsel nor Mr. Hayes gave freely of their services, and the BMV, being a state-funded agency, relies on taxpayer dollars to pay these attorneys their fees), the agency doesn't have a right to feel "pleased to have resolved the issue". One is left wondering why the BMV feels so pleased with this resolution? The magnitude of the agency's overcharges might suggest to some that, perhaps, these errors were more than mere oversight. Could this be why the agency is so "pleased" with this resolution? Will Indiana motorists ever be assured that the culture of incompetence (if not worse) that the BMV seems to have fostered is no longer the status quo? Or will even more "overcharges" and lawsuits result? It's fairly obvious who is really "pleased to have resolved the issue", and it's not Indiana's taxpayers who are on the hook for the legal fees generated in these cases.

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