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Remove Judge Kimberly Brown, special masters recommend

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Marion Superior Judge Kimberly Brown should be removed from the bench, a panel of three special masters has recommended to the Indiana Supreme Court.

The panel that heard the weeklong disciplinary case against Brown filed 107 pages of findings of fact, conclusions of law and recommended sanctioons Friday. The Supreme Court will determine what discipline Brown should receive in what is believed to be the most extensive case against a judge in the history of the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission.

The commission proved more than 80 rules violations by clear and convincing evidence on 46 of 47 counts against Brown, the panel concluded. She was cleared on Count 22, in which she was accused of interrupting a public defender and treating him in an impatient and discourteous manner as he attempted to make a legal argument.

Brown also may have violated the law for terminating a former bailiff in her court who was among those who complained to the JQC, the panel concluded.

The special masters – retired Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro, Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure and Lake Superior Judge Sheila M. Moss – made 281 particular findings in Brown’s case, along with conclusions that she violated numerous rules of judicial conduct.

Allegations against Brown include wrongful detention of at least nine criminal defendants, failing to properly oversee her court, improperly supervising trials, failing to act on Court of Appeals orders, showing hostility toward parties who came before her, and retaliating against court staff who complained.

Along with the catalog of rules violations the panel found, it also noted in its general conclusions Brown’s refusal to be sworn during videotaped depositions before the commission. Refusing to be sworn “can only be viewed as signifying a lack of respect for the judicial process,” the masters concluded. Brown also refused to turn over evidence the commission sought.

“Further, the Court noted that certain forms of uncooperative conduct and delay tactics cross the line between legitimate discovery dispute and are the sort of conduct which is ‘not only antithetical’ to a judicial officer’s obligations as an attorney and judge but also ‘calls into question the integrity of the judicial disciplinary process,’” the masters’ filing says.

The masters determined Brown violated the following rules of judicial conduct, along with the number of violations:

Rule 1.2: Acting in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Thirty-six violations.

Rule 2.5(A): Performing judicial duties competently, diligently and promptly. Thirty violations.

Rule 2.12(A): Duties of judicial office take precedence over a judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities. Eight violations.

Rule 2.8(B): Judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity and shall require similar conduct. Eight violations.

Rule 1.1: A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct. One violation.

Rule 2.6(A): Allowing anyone with a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law. One violation.

While the masters’ report was filed with the court Dec. 27, it was signed by Taliaferro on Dec. 22. On Dec. 11, new counsel appeared for Brown and filed a brief in which the judge apologized and proposed a 60-day suspension. The brief included an affidavit in Brown’s support from retired Justice Frank Sullivan.

The JQC asked that the masters strike the filing as untimely and outside the record. As of Monday, the docket for the case showed no ruling had been made on that motion, but the masters did not list Brown’s Dec. 11 filing in the chronology of disciplinary proceedings.
 

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