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UPDATE: Hamilton Superior judge surprised by case resolution

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In all his years on the bench, Hamilton Superior Judge William J. Hughes said he hasn’t experienced what he did this week as a defendant in a North Carolina court.

The longtime judge spoke with Indiana Lawyer Tuesday about his criminal drunk driving case stemming from an Oct. 27 arrest. He was pulled over and arrested in the Outer Banks for driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.13 - nearly twice the state’s legal limit of 0.08.

He was charged with misdemeanor driving while impaired and traffic infraction of driving left of center, and Judge Hughes said he traveled to North Carolina on Monday for what he expected to be his trial on those two counts.

Instead, the judge said he arrived at the Currituck District Court that morning to find a new reckless driving charge against him. After about five minutes before the bench there for an arraignment, Judge Hughes said he followed his attorney’s advice and pleaded guilty to the new reckless driving charge, a Class 2 misdemeanor under state statute §20-140(b).

His criminal sanction: 12 months of unsupervised probation that includes enrolling and completing an alcohol and drug assessment program within 180 days or attending at least 10 hours of substance abuse counseling. Additionally, he stipulated that he won’t operate a vehicle within eight hours of consuming any alcohol and paid a $300 fine and $143 in court costs.

“I was surprised by the resolution and quite frankly, pleased with it,” he said. “I’m not satisfied that this result had to happen, but under the circumstances I believe it was the best result that I could have ever expected. I’m certainly not happy with my conduct. I’ve learned many life lessons from this, though I’m sorry that this is how I came to learn them.”

Judge Hughes said the process in that North Carolina court was different than he’s seen before, and he came away from that experience also seeing what it’s like on the other side of the bench and how it can be confusing to defendants. Since his arrest, Judge Hughes said he followed the guidance of the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission and removed himself from any DWI cases that have come before him in Hamilton Superior 3. Senior Judge Judy Proffitt has been presiding over those cases, and he isn’t sure at this time how long that might continue.

Judge Hughes first joined the bench in 1988 and does not have any previous discipline history with the Indiana system. The judge self-reported his out-of-state arrest to the Indiana judicial disciplinary board and he has been cooperating with that process.

Generally, any disciplinary charges come once the criminal case is complete. The Indiana Supreme Court would make any final decision on discipline once that process begins. In the past, other trial judges who’ve faced drunken-driving charges have received public reprimands for similar conduct.


 

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  • above the law
    Every citizen should know what this judge did. He feels he is above the law. He should have lost his position, 90 suspension of license, report to probation, and never be allowed to drink. What a jerk instead its reduced to reckless driving. making sure every hamilton county citizen is aware and he should be fired.
  • Do all legal officers who
    drive after more than one drink demonstrate a lack of respect for the law and public safety to recommend harsh sanctions? Point if fact: drunk driving is illegal and kills. Or are some crimes not worth noting?
  • no big deal
    A lot of people who get charged with DUI get off on a lesser charge. That is no no big deal. He got caught, he's plead guilty to a serious albeit lesser traffic offense, got a typical penalty, self-reported the naughty, now lets get past this and forget about it and let him get on with his job. In the annals of judicial misconduct this is an absolutely insignificant event.
    • differing standards of justice?
      This result is suprising only if one believes that all, elites and the great unwashed, live under the same justice system. If there is, instead, differing standards for differing stations, as Orwell predicted in Animal Farm, then this makes perfect sense.

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    1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

    2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

    3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

    4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

    5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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