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Court won’t stay discovery in harassment claim against ex-judge

March 15, 2018

A former Indiana judge facing a sex-based harassment claim has lost his bid to stay discovery in the case against him.

Huntington County chief probation officer Heather Malone filed the sex-based harassment claim against former Judge Thomas Hakes in December, alleging he sent her suggestive emails and social media messages, even when asked to stop. The complaint went on to allege that when Malone denied Hakes’ advances, he denied her a pay raise and told other court employees to avoid her.

Hakes moved in late February to stay all discovery in the case unrelated to the issue of immunity, telling the court there was a “substantial likelihood that this case may be disposed of based on” absolute and/or qualified immunity. But Indiana Northern District Magistrate Judge Paul Cherry wrote in a Wednesday order that Hakes has not identified the basis for his alleged immunity defense, and there is no immunity motion pending before him.

Cherry also wrote that at a pretrial conference in January, Hakes did not request a bifurcated discovery process, even though the parties submitted a report saying discovery on the immunity issue would be needed. Hakes has not identified any change in circumstances to now justify the stay on all other discovery, the magistrate wrote, so the former judge’s motion was denied.

Wednesday’s decision is the second time the Northern District Court has ruled against Hakes. The court denied the former Huntington Circuit Court judge’s December motion to seal exhibits included with Malone’s complaint, including dozens of Facebook messages and emails. Hakes alleged the exhibits contained “communications relating to court business,” but a review of the documents shows they largely involved personal conversations.

Many of the messages – which Malone did not always respond to – centered on topics such as buying and drinking alcohol or watching ESPN. The judge also sent numerous messages telling Malone he would stop reaching out to her, yet he continued to do so.

Hakes retired from the Huntington Circuit Court on Dec. 31. Gov. Eric Holcomb in January appointed then-Huntington deputy prosecutor Jamie M. Groves to fill the judicial vacancy.    

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