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New judge gets 60-day unpaid suspension

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The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended LaPorte Superior Judge Jennifer L. Koethe for 60 days without pay, effective March 12. The judge had already been suspended with pay after she was indicted for attempted obstruction of justice following her accidental shooting in December 2008.

On March 11, the justices accepted the 60-day unpaid suspension proposed by Judge Koethe and the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications in their joint "Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline."

In addition to the suspension, Judge Koethe must disqualify herself from presiding in any case in which certain law enforcement officials or any other state witness for her case appeared during her criminal trial.

Judge Koethe was indicted May 7, 2009, on a Class D felony attempted obstruction of justice charge, related to asking a law enforcement officer to get rid of a note she had written to her husband the night of the shooting. She and her husband Stephan had been drinking and got into an argument that night, so she got a gun to make Stephan believe she was suicidal. She accidentally shot herself; she did not think the gun was loaded.

Even though Judge Koethe believed the note wasn't relevant to any crime, she still asked the officer to find it and get rid of it because she was embarrassed by its personal contents.

The Supreme Court suspended Judge Koethe in May with pay per Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 25(V) (A). In December 2009, the commission charged her with violating the 2008 Judicial Code of Conduct and Rules of Professional Conduct for withholding or misrepresenting pertinent information during taped statements with officials and for asking the officer to destroy the note. A jury acquitted the judge on the felony charge Jan. 5.

In the per curiam opinion, the justices agreed that the proposed suspension is appropriate. While the judge did ask the law enforcement officer to get rid of potential evidence, she did suffer a head wound that may have affected her mental state. Also, she has been cooperative with the commission during its investigation, is remorseful, and has undertaken appropriate measures to address the underlying personal issues that may have contributed to the shooting.

The judge must also satisfy certain therapeutic treatment and reporting requirements as part of her sanction.

"Had this case come to us after a full trial of the merits, we may have found a different penalty appropriate," the per curiam opinion states. "As we stated recently in another matter, 'A suspension from office without pay, regardless of duration, is not a minor sanction. Even more than a public reprimand, any such suspension is a significant blemish on a sitting judge's reputation.'"

Judge Koethe will be automatically reinstated at 12:01 a.m. May 11.

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  1. 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

  2. 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!!!

  3. 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.

  4. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  5. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

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