Hamilton Superior Judge William J. Hughes was arrested for drunk driving last week while vacationing in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
The 55-year-old judge has been on the bench since 1988. He sent out a news release on Monday night about the incident. Judge Hughes was arrested at 5:45 p.m. Oct. 27 and charged with misdemeanor driving while impaired and a traffic infraction of driving left of center, according to his statement.
Though the Currituck County Sheriff’s Office could not provide any information or forward a copy of the police report, an official with the Currituck County Clerk’s Office said a uniform citation document and police affidavit shows that Judge Hughes had a blood alcohol content of .13, nearly twice as high as the state’s legal limit of .08.
“It says on the affidavit that he traveled left of center twice, and turned his turn signal on a half of mile before the turn,” Currituck County Assistant Clerk of Courts Debbie Basnight said. The incident happened near North Carolina Highway 12 and Seabird Way in Corolla along the northern Outer Banks. An officer also reported a “light odor” of alcohol on the judge’s breath, but observed that he was polite and cooperative during the incident, according to Basnight. An automatic 30-day license revocation has also been implemented against Judge Hughes, she said.
The charges are pending in The General Court of Justice, District Court Division in Currituck County, N.C. The judge was released on an unsecured bond and the court docket shows his initial court appearance scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Jan. 24, 2011.
Judge Hughes has retained Teague & Glover in Elizabeth City, N.C., on the criminal charges, and attorney Danny Glover Jr. did not return a phone call from Indiana Lawyer today. Indianapolis attorneys Kevin McGoff and James Bell with Bingham McHale are representing Judge Hughes on the judicial discipline aspects.
“I apologize to my family, my friends, my colleagues and the general public for any embarrassment that my arrest has caused them,” Judge Hughes wrote in his statement, noting that he will not be making any more public comments about this pending matter.
Judge Hughes does not have any discipline history with the Indiana system. He has presided over many high-profile cases that most recently include the Carmel High School basketball hazing case, former money manager Marcus Schrenker’s case, as well as annexation and other cases that have gone as high as the Indiana Supreme Court. He was one of three finalists for the state’s Court of Appeals in 2007. the judge's current term is set to expire at the end of 2012.
On the morning of Oct. 28, Judge Hughes self-reported his out-of-state arrest to the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission. 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 concludes. In the past, other trial judges who’ve faced drunken-driving charges – including Marion Superior Judge John F. Hanley in 2007 and Allen Circuit Judge Thomas Felts in 2008 – have received public reprimands for similar conduct.