Justices remove Lake superior judge from retention ballot

The Indiana Supreme Court yanked a Lake Superior Court judge from the Nov. 6 retention ballot following his retirement announcement Friday that came after the court’s office of judicial administration requested a new judge be appointed.

Judge Jesse Villalpando has told the high court he wants to retire Dec. 31 and not stand for retention in the 2018 general election. Justices issued an order Thursday ordering the Indiana Secretary of State’s Election Division to remove Villalpondo’s name from the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

According to a petition filed by Villalpando’s attorney, Michael Bosch, the judge indicated he did not think it would be “open and honest with the voters of Lake County to stand for retention knowing full well that he does not intend to serve another term beginning January 1, 2019, if retained.” The petition also noted Villalpando wished to resign from the Lake Superior Court bench due to a “substantial change in circumstances.”

Villalpando’s removal from the ballot comes just two months after the Indiana office of judicial administration filed a petition asking the Indiana Supreme Court to appoint a temporary replacement for Villalpando as judge of Lake Superior Court, County Division 4, for dereliction of duty as well as complaining of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories involving court officials.

Office of Judicial Administration director Justin Forkner alleged Villalpando refused to perform his duties, made injudicious statements and refused to process more than 50 criminal cases the Lake County prosecutor's office wanted filed in his court between May 9 and 17. Those cases covered domestic violence, drunken driving, drug charges and criminal recklessness with a deadly weapons, among others. Forkner’s complaint noted Villalpando had illegally detained in jail three criminal defendants for more than 48 hours after their initial arrest without finding probable cause.

Forkner’s petition also noted that Villalpando became involved in an internal administrative dispute with other judges and public officials about how cases would be processed, which “spilled over into the public arena,” leading to accusations against colleagues and other public officials of “conspiring against Judge Villalpando.”

“Despite the attempts of these other officials to address and alleviate Judge Villalpando’s concerns,” the petition reads, “Judge Villalpando decided to handle the matter by refusing to perform his judicial duties and/or by making public unfounded allegations against these individuals.”

The Times of Northwest Indiana reported that Bosch told the high court earlier this month Villalpando was in contact with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program and received a list of three counseling providers. 

The judge previously served as an East Chicago city attorney and spent 16 years as the 12th District state representative in Lake County before his appointment as judge in 2000 to the Lake Superior Court, County Division.

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