A Marion Superior judge facing a 45-count disciplinary complaint responded today to a petition for her suspension by saying, “She is resolute that she can and will learn from what has been alleged, and that she will redouble her efforts to proceed.”
Judge Kimberly Brown’s response was filed before a Supreme Court-imposed noon deadline today to answer a verified petition for suspension on multiple allegations. Brown is accused of a litany of charges, including that her actions led to the delayed release of at least nine defendants who wrongly spent 1 to 22 days in jail, and that she created “a hostile environment for attorneys, court staff, clerks, and other court officials.”
The Judicial Qualifications Commission on Aug. 26 issued a verified petition for suspension, alleging those violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct and also accusing Brown of failing to properly supervise staff and court officers. Brown also is charged with improperly converting jury trials to bench trials and causing needless delays.
Brown’s response and a further detailed memorandum prepared by Indianapolis attorney Aaron Haith strikes a contrite, conciliatory and corrective tone and asks the justices to deny the petition for suspension and allow her to continue to preside “until an adjudication of all issues is reached.” No proceedings before the JQC had been scheduled as of today.
“Judge Brown states that it has never been her intent to knowingly fail to oversee and train her staff. Judge Brown recognizes that it is her responsibility to be certain the staff performs in a fair and reasonable manner and to the best of their abilities,” the response says.
Brown specifically denies one of 10 generalized areas of complaints against her: that she retaliated against and fired a court employee she believed had filed or was planning to file an ethics complaint against her. “Judge Brown submits that she has not done this in the past nor will she do this in the future,” the response says.
Among the most damning allegations against Brown are charges that her failure to properly document and follow through with court orders resulted in the improper jailing of nine defendants on misdemeanor charges – one for 22 days, another for 17 days. Brown responds that she is determined “to address every concern stated by the Commission and accept responsibility and correct any problems or omissions that have been made.”
Brown sought in the memorandum to distinguish her case from prior judicial discipline cases that involved suspension of one judge and removal of another.
“Contrary to the arguments of the Commission, (Brown) does not present a similar issue of court management as was addressed by the Court in Matter of Hawkins, 902 N.E.2d 231 (Ind. 2009),” the response says, referring to a divided opinion in which Marion Superior Judge Grant Hawkins was suspended for 60 days.
“The delays caused by (Brown) and her staff are not the result of a lack of internal management systems aimed at addressing the specific problem, though the system may have proven to be inadequate. The fact that delayed releases continue within the court system, including (Brown’s court), is most discouraging and requires additional concern.”
“Judge Brown’s conduct thus far is not one of a persistent failure to perform judicial duties over a long period of time as was found in Matter of Kouros, 816 N.E.2d 21 (Ind. 2002),” the memorandum says, referring to the removal of twice-suspended Lake Superior Judge Joan Kouros for a number of administrative failings.
Brown’s response makes repeated assertions that corrective action has been taken in regard to allegations or that she is working with court staff to implement changes.
“While (Brown) can understand that some may perceive her actions as hostile, she feels she is level handed in her treatment of all persons she works with and those who appear before her whether a litigant or party,” the response memorandum says. “She nonetheless believes that while she has been cooperative with counsel and fellow judges, she can and will always strive to be better.”