The Indiana Supreme Court publicly reprimanded a northern Indiana judge Friday convicted of felony battery against a public safety official after an altercation with a local police chief. As part of the agreement, the judge resigned effective immediately.
The public reprimand against Dunkirk City Court Judge Tommy D. Phillips II comes after the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Committee filed a formal disciplinary charge against him earlier this month. The charges stem from an August 2016 incident involving Phillips and Dunkirk Chief of Police Dane Mumbower, who is also Phillips’ nephew.
Phillips was at the Dunkirk Police Department for a meeting with Gene Ritter, mayor of Dunkirk, and Mumbower to discuss “several issues of conflict between the police department and the city court” when Phillips and Mumbower got into a “heated verbal altercation.” Phillips then shoved his nephew in the midsection, but Ritter was able to calm both men down and continue the meeting.
The Jay County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the incident a few days later, and Phillips, who is not an attorney, was charged with Level 6 felony battery against a public safety official. The judge pleaded guilty, and a judgment of conviction was entered against him as a misdemeanor. He was sentenced to a year in jail, all suspended to probation, with 100 hours of community service to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as a condition of probation.
Additionally, the Indiana Supreme Court suspended Phillips with pay in September 2016 and subsequently transferred Jay Superior Judge May C. Ludy Jr. and Jay Circuit Judge Brian D. Hutchinson to the city court “to facilitate the judicial work of the court.”
Then on April 5, the Judicial Qualifications Committee announced a formal discipline charge against Phillips stemming from the incident with Mumbower. In a Friday order in the case of In The Matter of the Honorable Tommy D. Phillips, II, Judge of the Dunkirk City Court, 38S00-1609-JD-517, the court wrote that Phillips’ actions were in violation of Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.1 and 1.2, requiring judges to comply with the law and avoid impropriety.
The commission found no aggravating factors against Phillips but did find as mitigators the fact that he self-reported his misconduct, cooperated with the commission, sought treatment to address his underlying problems and was remorseful. Also as part of the agreement, Phillipls had to resign as the Dunkirk City Court judge, effective Friday, and he may not serve as judge in the future.
The court issued a public reprimand against Phillips, terminated the disciplinary proceeding and assessed the costs of the proceeding against him.