St. Joseph Probate Judge Peter Nemeth’s comments in denying an interpreter for an 18-year-old deaf person who was the subject of a guardianship proceeding have resulted in disciplinary charges filed by the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission.
Nemeth is alleged to have made derogatory comments suggesting that it was inappropriate that the litigant request that “the taxpayers pay for” an interpreter when the she “hadn’t paid taxes for several years,” according to a statement from the commission. Nemeth denied the request and ordered the litigant to provide a deaf interpreter for the permanent guardianship hearing, but later revised the order after the litigant brought the relevant portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act to the court office, according to the statement.
The commission announced a notice of the institution of formal proceedings and statement of charges against Nemeth that allege the statements made during hearings in March and May 2011 violated the following rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct:
- Rule 1.2, which requires judges to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary;
- Rule 2.2, which requires judges to perform all duties of judicial office fairly and impartially;
- Rule 2.3(B), which requires judges to not act, in the performance of judicial duties, in a manner that manifests bias or prejudice; and,
- Rule 2.8(b), which requires judges to be patient, dignified, and courteous to litigants.
The commission also claims he engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.
Nemeth has served as the judge of St. Joseph Probate Court since 1993 and has been a member of the Indiana bar since 1966. Nemeth may file an answer to the charges with the Indiana Supreme Court within 20 days of receiving notice of the charges. The Indiana Supreme Court then will appoint three judges as masters to conduct a public hearing.
The Indiana Supreme Court has final authority for judicial discipline. The court can dismiss the charges or impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a permanent ban on holding a judicial office in Indiana.
Nemeth’s term ends this year and he is not seeking re-election.