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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. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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