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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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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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