Justices suspend City Court judge accused of battering police chief

Dunkirk City Court Judge Tommy Dale “Chip” Phillips II has been suspended with pay after he was charged with assaulting the city’s police chief, who is also Phillips’ nephew.

After a special prosecutor charged Phillips with Level 6 felony battery against a public safety officer, the Indiana Supreme Court issued an order Friday saying his suspension was required under Admission and Discipline Rule 25(V)(A).

According to charging information, the assault occurred as Phillips met with Dunkirk Police Chief Dane Mumbower and Mayor Gene Ritter at the police station to discuss issues of conflict between the judge and police department, according to a police report from the Jay County Sheriff’s Office contained in charges filed by special prosecutor Jeremy W. Brown of Adams County.

The report says “immediately after the meeting began, Judge Phillips began speaking to Chief Mumbower in a very aggressive manner, stating that he has cut all family ties with him and if Chief Mumbower was laying on the side of the road, Judge Phillips would not stop to help him.”

Mumbower got up to leave the meeting, pointed at Phillips and said “You don’t tell me what to do” after Phillips told him to sit down, the report says. “Chief Mumbower states that at that point Judge Phillips got up from his seat and aggressively ‘charged’ at Chief Mumbower with both hands to Chief Mumbower’s chest area, knocking him back into the wall and causing him pain and discomfort and knocking him off balance,” the reports says.

The report says Mumbower reported that Phillips and Mayor Ritter both told him to stay in the room. He said when he told Ritter that Phillips had just committed battery on him, he “was then told by Mayor Ritter that he was telling him as his boss to sit down.” Mumbower said he returned to his seat for fear his job might be in jeopardy if he didn’t.

“Chief Mumbower states that he then advised Mayor Ritter and Judge Phillips that the incident was documented by audio and video in the room. … Chief Mumbower states that near the end of the meeting, Judge Phillips asked Chief Mumbower not to show the video to the other officers on the department and he agreed to this,” the report says.

Phillips’ suspension is effective immediately. Phillips is not an attorney and has served as Dunkirk City Court judge since October 2000, according to the Supreme Court.

His judicial discipline case is In the Matter of Tommy D. Phillips, 38S00-1609-JD-00517. The court said it would arrange for a judge in Dunkirk City Court Court, but none had been appointed as of Friday.

Chaired by Chief Justice Loretta Rush, the Commission on Judicial Qualifications is the seven-member group that investigates alleged ethical misconduct by judges. The Supreme Court has final authority over judicial discipline.

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