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Senior judge accused of misconduct

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The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has filed five charges against a senior judge and former LaPorte Superior Court judge, alleging he violated ethics rules while serving as an elected judge.

According to charges filed today, in 2001, Senior Judge Walter P. Chapala suspended 18 years of a 20-year sentence of a defendant in exchange for a $100,000 donation to two court programs from the defendant's father.

The second allegation stems from a 2004 case in which the judge, while presiding over the criminal case of his daughter-in-law's nephew, ordered the nephew released from a "hold" in Michigan relating to felony charges he faced in that state. After the LaPorte County Sheriff's Department lawfully returned the nephew to Michigan authorities, Senior Judge Chapala began contempt proceedings against the sheriff of LaPorte County. He dismissed the contempt only after the sheriff apologized to the judge. Despite the judge's relationship with the nephew, he continued to preside over the case.

In the five counts filed against the senior judge, he's accused of violating Cannons 1A and 2A of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to uphold the integrity of the judicial office; Cannon 2B, which prohibits a judge from lending the prestige of the office to advance their own private interests or of others, and prohibits a judge from allowing family or other relationships to influence a judge's judicial conduct; Canon 3B(2), which requires judges to be faithful to the law and not be swayed by partisan interests; Canon 3B(8), which prohibits ex parte contacts; Canon 3B(9), which requires judges to dispose of all judicial matters fairly; and Canon 3E(1), which requires judges to disqualify themselves from proceedings when their impartiality may be questioned.

The counts also allege Senior Judge Chapala committed conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice and willful misconduct in office.

Bingham McHale attorney Kevin P. McGoff, who is representing Senior Judge Chapala, declined to discuss the charges, saying he just received them today. The judge has confidence in the process and he'll want to see it through, McGoff said.

Senior Judge Chapala took the bench in 1991 and became a senior judge in 2005. According to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys, he was admitted to practice in 1970. The senior judge has 20 days to file an answer to the charges and upon his filing, three masters will be appointed by the Indiana Supreme Court to conduct a public hearing on the charges.

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  1. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  2. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  3. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  4. Different rules for different folks....

  5. I would strongly suggest anyone seeking mediation check the experience of the mediator. There are retired judges who decide to become mediators. Their training and experience is in making rulings which is not the point of mediation.

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