A southwestern Indiana judge is facing a slew of judicial disciplinary charges for alleged misconduct in his handling of two child welfare cases.
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed the disciplinary charges against Gibson Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey F. Meade on Thursday. The four-count complaint alleges violations of multiple rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct in Meade’s handling of paternity and child in need of services cases.
Meade became judge of the Gibson Circuit Court in 2007 and was most recently reelected in 2018.
In 2015, he began presiding over the paternity case at issue, In re the Paternity of H.L., 26C01-0803-JP-000020.
According to the JQC’s Notice of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and Statement of Charges, Meade “exhibited impatient, undignified, and discourteous behavior” toward the father in the case on multiple occasions from 2019 to 2021. That included telling the father to “zip it” and “shut up”; accusing the father of passing the child off “like a football”; calling the father “bro”; and using explicit language from the bench, among other alleged misconduct.
Meade’s conduct in the paternity case underlies one of the four disciplinary charges against him. The three other charges relate to a series of CHINS cases opened for a trio of children in 2018.
In that case, Meade is accused of presiding over an off-the-record, unrecorded hearing in his chambers. Among the issues to be resolved at the hearing was the paternal grandmother’s motion to intervene.
That motion was granted, but the grandmother’s counsel was never included in the in-chambers hearing, even after she was permitted to intervene.
Meanwhile, counsel for the foster parents seeking to adopt the children appeared telephonically at the in-chambers hearing. Their counsel requested an opportunity to appear in person and present evidence on various oral motions, including the dismissal of the CHINS case, but Meade did not grant that request and the foster parents were never permitted to present evidence.
In fact, according to the JQC, no witness testimony was presented during the in-chambers hearing. Even so, Meade made five rulings, including granting extended visitation to the paternal grandmother and removing the court-appointed special advocate from the case.
At the conclusion of the hearing, after the foster parents’ counsel had hung up, Meade asked counsel for the mother to help the court reporter prepare the minute entry because there was no recording of the hearing. No other party was allowed to give input for the minute entry, and the foster parents’ counsel did not know that mother’s counsel had been asked to help prepare the entry.
Then, when a proposed order from the hearing was circulated, counsel for the foster parents communicated that she had a different recollection of Meade’s rulings. Her changes, however, were not incorporated, and the final order was approved.
The in-chambers hearing was entered on the chronological case summary as a hearing journal event, but more than two years later, Meade changed the CCS to reflect an administrative event instead.
Across the four charges, Meade is accused of violating Code of Judicial Conduct Rules 1.1, 1.2, 2.2, 2.5, 2.6 and 2.9(A).
The JQC has requested the appointment of three masters to conduct a public hearing on the charges.
Meade is permitted, but not required, to file an answer to the charges within 20 days. Indiana Lawyer has reached out to the judge for comment.
The judicial discipline case is In the Matter of The Honorable Jeffrey F. Meade, Judge of the Gibson Circuit Court, 22S-JD-390.
Meade was admitted to the Indiana bar in June 2000 and has no other disciplinary history, according to the Indiana Roll of Attorneys.
Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to show that the disciplinary charges were filed Thursday, Dec. 1.