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New Haven City Court judge faces discipline

September 21, 2018

A northern Indiana city court judge was charged with four counts of judicial misconduct Friday for improperly assuming the duties of a prosecutor and wrongly approving infraction deferrals for juveniles.

The Indiana Supreme Court on Friday spelled out the charges against New Haven City Court Judge Geoffrey L . Robison, who has served in that capacity since 2000, before which he was chief of the police department in the Allen County city.

According to the statement of charges, Robison filed and processed infraction tickets without prosecutor approval, improperly used the prosecutor’s signature stamp to execute deferral agreements on infractions, and improperly placed 67 juveniles into an infraction deferral program.

“By permitting individuals under the age of 18 who had been charged with moving violations and other infractions which made them ineligible for a deferred resolution to enter into Infraction Deferral Program agreements, Respondent violated I.C. § 34-28-5-1(f),” the charges state.

The charges largely stem from actions Robison took after spring 2015, when Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards learned it was unethical to have court staff perform the duties of the prosecutor, such as using her stamp to execute infraction deferrals, as had been done since she became prosecutor in 2003. 

In April 2015, Richards told Robison the prosecutor’s office would no longer authorize the filing of charges in the city court and that any infraction tickets or ordinance violations filed by police should be returned to the officer for filing in Allen Superior Court. 

“Despite Prosecutor Richards’ directive … (Robison) permitted state infraction tickets to be filed and processed in New Haven City Court from April 15, 2015 through May 22, 2017,” the charges say, continuing to use Richards’ prosecutor office stamp. According to the charges, at least 1,837 infraction cases were filed from mid-2015 to 2018, and none were venued or transferred to Allen Superior Court.

In 2017, Richards notified Robison that he needed to dismiss any cases in which a juvenile had been given a deferral, cases in which defendants had been paying fines without an adjudication, and transfer any pending case without an adjudication not in a deferral program to Allen Superior. Robison, the charges say, “dismissed the cases identified but noted on the record that the dismissals were upon petition by the prosecuting attorney. No such petitions had been filed. 

The Commission on Judicial Qualifications charged Robison with four counts. The counts each allege multiple violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct including those requiring a judge to comply with the law; act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary; uphold the law fairly and impartially; and act in a manner not prejudicial to the administration of justice.

The commission asks the Supreme Court to appoint a panel of three special masters to conduct a public hearing on the judicial misconduct charge and impose an appropriate sanction.
 

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