The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission has filed disciplinary charges against a Muncie City Court judge, alleging she improperly incarcerated defendants and has failed to cooperate with the commission’s investigation into her conduct, which includes verbal altercations with her children’s father.
The 13-count complaint released Thursday by the court against Dianna Bennington alleges she abused judicial power, repeatedly violated statutes and court rules, and is guilty of injudicious public conduct.
Some of the charges stem from her jailing of a man for contempt, who was appearing for Class A misdemeanor cruelty against an animal, without affording the man due process. She also improperly sentenced the man without a prosecutor present and then lost his court file.
Other charges are a result of her treatment of other defendants who came before her, such as rejecting a tendered plea agreement then sua sponte ordering that man to appear for a presentence investigation while making prejudicial statements about the charged count.
She also allegedly ordered staff to notify the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to suspend licenses of litigants who failed to pay on infractions for illegal possession of tobacco, but she has no statutory or legal authority to do so.
Several of the counts stem from her interactions with her twins’ father, Jason Walker, a Delaware County sheriff’s deputy. She made comment about him not paying child support on Walker’s Facebook page, got into a screaming match with him at the children’s daycare, and used a racial slur when talking about Walker’s girlfriend.
The commission says that Bennington has failed to cooperate with its investigation.
She is currently on a voluntary leave of absence with pay, according to the complaint. Bennington has 20 days to file an answer to the charges. The commission is asking for three masters to be appointed to hold a public hearing on the charges.
Bennington was admitted to the bar in 2003 and has been the city court judge since Jan. 1, 2012.