Judge pro tempore appointed for judge facing sex-based harassment claims
The Indiana Supreme Court has appointed a judge pro tempore to fill an upcoming vacancy in the Huntington Circuit Court as a sex-based harassment case against the current sitting judge continues to play out in federal court.
In an order dated Dec. 6, the high court appointed Senior Judge Karen A. Springer to serve as judge pro tempore of the Huntington Circuit Court, effective Dec. 31, the same date the current judge, Thomas M. Hakes, will resign. Hakes is currently at the center of a lawsuit filed by Heather Malone, the county’s chief probation officer, who alleges in a complaint filed last week the judge sent her suggestive emails and social media messages and sought to deny her a pay raise when she did not return his interest.
Hakes had previously announced plans to retire at the end of this year, but the order appointing Springer as judge pro tempore describes his exit from the bench as a resignation, not a retirement.
The case, originally filed in Huntington Superior Court, was moved to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana on Monday. Also on Monday, Hakes, who is represented by the Indiana Attorney General’s Office, moved to seal certain exhibits included with Malone’s complaint.
In his motion to seal, Hakes alleges the exhibits in question relate to discussions of “court business” between Hakes and Malone and, thus, should be sealed in their entirety, or should be redacted where appropriate. The exhibits, which were still publicly available online as of Tuesday morning, do include some references to court-related business, such as meetings or appointments. Some of the messages and emails included in the exhibits have already been partially redacted.
However, the majority of the content in the documents in question is related to personal matters, such as discussions about buying and drinking alcohol and watching ESPN. There are also numerous messages in which Hakes tells Malone he will stop emailing her after work hours or sending her Facebook messages, yet fails to follow through on those promises. Malone did not respond to many of the Facebook messages.
According to WPTA-TV in Fort Wayne, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb is in the process of researching six candidates to fill the vacancy left by Hakes’ resignation. Holcomb’s office also told WPTA a successor would likely be appointed within the next few weeks.
Springer’s appointment as judge pro tempore will remain in effect until a successor is appointed, or until further order of the court.