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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. I'm not sure what's more depressing: the fact that people would pay $35,000 per year to attend an unaccredited law school, or the fact that the same people "are hanging in there and willing to follow the dean’s lead in going forward" after the same school fails to gain accreditation, rendering their $70,000 and counting education worthless. Maybe it's a good thing these people can't sit for the bar.

  2. Such is not uncommon on law school startups. Students and faculty should tap Bruce Green, city attorney of Lufkin, Texas. He led a group of studnets and faculty and sued the ABA as a law student. He knows the ropes, has advised other law school startups. Very astute and principled attorney of unpopular clients, at least in his past, before Lufkin tapped him to run their show.

  3. Not that having the appellate records on Odyssey won't be welcome or useful, but I would rather they first bring in the stray counties that aren't yet connected on the trial court level.

  4. Aristotle said 350 bc: "The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of an modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural.

  5. Oh yes, lifetime tenure. The Founders gave that to the federal judges .... at that time no federal district courts existed .... so we are talking the Supreme Court justices only in context ....so that they could rule against traditional marriage and for the other pet projects of the sixties generation. Right. Hmmmm, but I must admit, there is something from that time frame that seems to recommend itself in this context ..... on yes, from a document the Founders penned in 1776: " He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good."

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