JQC: Judge’s suspension should remain until end of disciplinary proceedings

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a Sept. 23 statement from Judge Andrew Adams’ defense counsel.

Public trust in the integrity of the judicial system would be compromised if Judge Andrew Adams were reinstated to the Clark County bench before the end of his disciplinary action, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications argued in new court filings.

The JQC submitted a response Friday to Adams’ request to lift his suspension, which was implemented in June after he was indicted on felony charges stemming from a May shooting in downtown Indianapolis.

According to Adams, his recent plea to misdemeanor battery negates the need to continue his suspension, which was premised on felony charges that no longer exist because of his plea. But the commission argued professional conduct rules allow the suspension to remain in effect until its work is completed.

“When examining Admission and Discipline Rule 25 V in total, it is apparent that the primary concern which supports imposing an interim suspension before disciplinary proceedings can be concluded is that it is necessary to at least temporarily remove a judge from the bench, due to the allegations against the judge, in order to protect public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary,” the commission wrote in In the Matter of the Honorable Andrew Adams, Clark Circuit Court 1, 19S-JD-386.

JQC attorneys specifically pointed to Rule 25V(E), which it argues would allow Adams’ suspension to remain in effect “if the Court deems the interim suspension necessary to protect public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary.”

To that end, the commission noted the May 1 shooting, which also injured Clark Court Judge Bradley Jacobs, has garnered widespread media attention. The commission pointed to “at least two newspaper articles which have questioned how proceedings involving public officials are handled when there are allegations of misconduct.” Those articles were attached to the commission’s response as exhibits.

Similarly, Rule 25V(D) holds that “(a) judicial officer may be suspended with pay by the Supreme Court without the necessity of action by the Commission upon the filing of an indictment or information charging the judicial officer with a misdemeanor which suggests conduct that adversely affects the ability to perform the duties of the judicial office.” Adams’ ability to perform his judicial duties would be compromised if he is reinstated before the disciplinary proceedings are complete, the JQC argued.

“The trial court to which Respondent was elected has both criminal and civil jurisdiction,” the response reads. “The Commission submits that it is reasonable to believe that litigants charged with crimes in Respondent’s court may have reason to question his impartiality, particularly regarding battery offenses, while he is currently under investigation and/or a litigant in disciplinary proceedings. See Jud. Cond. Rule 2.11(A). This could lead to frequent disqualification in Respondent’s court if he is returned to the bench at this time.”

In noting its efforts to reach a “proper, speedy, and appropriate disposition” of its investigation and possible proceedings, the commission said it expects to make a decision about whether to bring formal charges against Adams at its next meeting in early October.

Though the JQC has confirmed that it is investigating the shooting incident, it has not said whether Adams or Jacobs are specific subjects of the investigation. Jacobs was not charged in the incident.

Finally, the commission said the Supreme Court could appoint a new judge pro tempore to oversee Adams’ court if the current judge pro tem, Senior Judge Steven Fleece, wishes to step down, as Adams argued.

The two alleged assailants against the judge, Brandon Kaiser and Alfredo Vazquez, were indicted alongside Adams. Both of their cases are pending.

Adams’ attorneys, Jennifer Lukemeyer and James Voyles, issued a statement on the case Sept. 23.  “From the day Judge Adams was shot to the day he accepted responsibility for his part in the incident on May 1, 2019, he has cooperated with law enforcement as well as the Judicial Qualifications Commission. He intends to continue to work with the Commission to reach an agreement that ultimately will allow him to return to the bench. No additional comment can be made as the matter is still under investigation,” the statement said.

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