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Town court judge admonished for traffic case involvement

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A northeastern Indiana town court judge was given a public admonishment Monday by the Commission on Judicial Qualifications for her direct individual involvement with parties involved in a 2008 traffic infraction case.

Fremont Town Court Judge Martha C. Hagerty improperly engaged in multiple ex parte conversations and assumed the role of prosecutor when she tried to negotiate a resolution to a defendant’s case, the commission determined.

The case involves a defendant whose license was suspended after receiving a ticket. The defendant called Fremont Town Court in Steuben County, and Hagerty said the license would be reinstated if the defendant paid the ticket and an additional fine. Hagerty also took part in ex parte communications with the prosecutor in the case, according to the admonition.

Hagerty didn’t set a hearing after she received notice that the defendant wished to contest the ticket, according to the admonition. More than two years later, the defendant filed a motion for discovery that the judge denied. She granted the prosecutor’s motion to dismiss the charges in January.

Hagerty, who is not an attorney, acknowledges she violated Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to promote confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and Rule 2.2, which requires judges to perform duties fairly and impartially. She also acknowledges violation of Rule 2.9(A) forbidding ex parte communications except in emergencies.  

The commission determined that formal disciplinary charges are warranted against her. However, Supreme Court rules allow for the judicial officer and the commission to agree to a public admonition instead of filing charges.

“Had Judge Hagerty not been so responsive to the commission’s concerns and taken immediate corrective action, the commission would have been inclined to pursue a stronger course of action,” the admonition says.
 

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