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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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