A former senior judge in northern Indiana faces disciplinary action for charges that she had a sexual relationship with a client to whom she was appointed as a public defender.
Lisa Traylor-Wolff of Logansport was appointed in January 2012 as S.W.’s public defender in a Cass County case in which he was sentenced to 30 years for convictions of robbery and criminal confinement. She represented him during his appeal until his conviction was affirmed by the Indiana Court of Appeals in mid-July 2012.
Between February 2012 and June 2012, Traylor-Wolff “developed a more personal relationship” with S.W., according to the notice of the institution of formal proceedings and statement of charges issued Monday by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications.
Traylor-Wolff allegedly provided S.W. with art, books and cash, and she completed a Bible study with him before the relationship became sexual. The two kissed on multiple occasions during Traylor-Wolff’s visits with him in the prison’s attorney-client visitations rooms, according to the three counts against her. On a visit in June 2012, correction officers witnessed “excessive fondling with intent to sexually gratify over the clothing.”
The alleged conduct violates Rule 1.8(j) of the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct and Miami Correctional Facility visitation rules, and S.W. was issued a disciplinary write-up and sanctioned with a loss of jail credit time.
The charges against Traylor-Wolff also accuse her of violating Rule 1.7(a)(2), prohibiting a lawyer from representing a client if there is significant risk that the representation will be materially limited by a personal interest of the lawyer.
Traylor-Wolff was certified as a senior judge at the time of the alleged violations, putting the discipline against her before the Judicial Qualifications Commission, according to Supreme Court Public Information Officer Kathryn Dolan. The former judge also is charged with violating rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
Traylor-Wolff had been a senior judge since 2001 and did not seek recertification as a senior judge at the end of 2012, Dolan said. She was admitted to practice in 1986 and is listed as active and in good standing on the Indiana Roll of Attorneys with no prior record of discipline. She served on the bench in Fulton and Pulaski counties in the 1990s until becoming a senior judge.
Traylor-Wolff has 20 days to file an answer with the Supreme Court, after which three masters may be appointed to conduct a public hearing on the disciplinary charges.