Traffic judge's 60-day suspension begins next week

December 20, 2011

Hammond City Court Judge Jeffrey A. Harkin will begin serving his 60-day unpaid suspension on Dec. 27 as a result of an agreement he reached with the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications and approved by the state’s highest court.

The Indiana Supreme Court issued a per curiam order Dec. 20, a month after ordering the judge’s suspension resulting from his conduct in court. The judicial disciplinary commission earlier this year accused Harkin of violating three professional conduct rules: two charges involve his operation of a long-established traffic school deferral program and failure to collect fees between 2005 and 2010, while a third charge involves an August 2010 seatbelt violation case in which a defendant alleged the judge made inappropriate comments to him and dissuaded him from contesting the ticket in court.

Harkin reached a conditional agreement with the commission, and the Supreme Court accepted the agreement on Nov. 17. In its opinion, the court recounted the history of the case and pointed to mitigating factors: that the city court had been referring litigants to traffic school for decades and neither previous judges or prosecutors raised concerns; and that Harkin has already addressed personnel issues that accounted for his lack of investigation about concerns regarding the traffic school.

“The Court agrees with the parties that under the circumstances of this case, the disposition they propose is an appropriate result,” the opinion states. “As we stated recently in another matter, ‘A suspension from office without pay, regardless of duration, is not a minor sanction. Even more than a public reprimand, any such suspension is a significant blemish on a sitting judge’s reputation.’”

Gary attorney Kenya Jones has been appointed as judge pro tem and will preside during Harkin’s suspension, between Dec. 27 and Feb 25.



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