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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. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

  2. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

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