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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. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  2. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

  3. I will agree with that as soon as law schools stop lying to prospective students about salaries and employment opportunities in the legal profession. There is no defense to the fraudulent numbers first year salaries they post to mislead people into going to law school.

  4. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  5. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

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