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Special masters named in judge's disciplinary case

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The Indiana Supreme Court has appointed three trial judges as special masters to preside over the disciplinary case of one of their city court colleagues from Lake County, who is accused of operating an illegal traffic school, dismissing cases without assessing required fees, and dissuading one litigant from contesting a seatbelt violation in court.

An order dated Monday names Vigo Circuit/Superior Judge David Bolk, Clark Superior Judge Vicki Carmichael, and Hamilton Circuit Judge Paul Felix to consider the case against Hammond City Judge Jeffrey A. Harkin.

The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission accuses Judge Harkin of violating three professional conduct rules: two charges involve his operation of a long-established traffic school deferral program and not collecting fees between 2005 and 2010, while a third charge involves an August 2010 seatbelt violation case where a defendant alleged the judge made inappropriate comments to him and dissuaded him from contesting the ticket in court.

Through his attorney David Weigle in Hammond, Judge Harkin filed an answer Aug. 12 denying the allegations and contending that he did nothing wrong. The judge’s answer says he cannot recall the litigant’s specific demeanor at the time and can’t speak to what the man might have “felt” about the judge’s attitude, but he remembers giving the man a chance to make his defense in court.

As to the traffic school allegations, Judge Harkin said he believes that he acted appropriately given his judicial authority to dismiss a case using the program, and that although it may not be specifically listed in state statute, nothing specifically prohibits judges from using these types of deferral programs. The traffic school has existed for decades and prior judges and prosecutors have known about and used it in the same way over time without anyone raising concern, according to the answer.

The three special masters have until mid-October to submit a schedule for the disciplinary proceedings, with a final report completed by Jan. 25, 2012. The state’s justices have final authority on any agreement or disciplinary decision, and if any misconduct is found they’d be responsible for any sanctions deemed necessary.
 

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  1. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  2. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  3. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  4. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

  5. Agreed on 4th Amendment call - that was just bad policing that resulted in dismissal for repeat offender. What kind of parent names their boy "Kriston"?

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