UPDATE: Hamilton Superior judge surprised by case resolution

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.



  • 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.

    Post a comment to this story

    We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
    You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
    Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
    No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
    We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

    Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

    Sponsored by
    Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
    1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

    2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

    3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

    4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

    5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues