Judge pro tem appointed to Crawford Circuit Court

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A new senior judge will take the bench in place of suspended Crawford Circuit Judge Sabrina R. Bell next week.

On Tuesday, the Indiana Supreme Court ordered Senior Judge Harris L. Whitis to serve as judge pro tempore of the Crawford Circuit Court starting May 23. Harris will take over the duties from Senior Judge Susan Orth, who has presided over the trial court since April 13, when Harrison Superior Judge Joseph Claypool issued the District 24 assignment.

Orth was assigned to the Crawford Circuit Court after Bell abruptly announced on Facebook last month that she was ending her reelection campaign ahead of the Indiana primary election and was stepping down from the bench following an incident involving local law enforcement.

Bell, who was first elected in 2016, was then suspended on May 12 by the Supreme Court after she was arrested for allegedly battering her ex-husband, Douglas A. Goerss of the Perry County Prosecutor’s Office, in front of minor her children on April 12.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications’ disciplinary case, 22S-JD-148, against Bell states she is being paid during her suspension.

Bell has been suspended by the Supreme Court before.

In 2019, Bell, along with Clark Circuit Court judges Andrew Adams and Bradley Jacobs, were involved in a brawl-turned-shooting at an Indianapolis White Castle restaurant. The altercation between the judges and Brandon Kaiser and Alfredo Vasquez resulted in Jacobs and Adams being shot.

Bell and Jacobs were suspended for 30 days without pay for their roles while Adams was suspended for 60 days without pay. Adams also pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to one year, all suspended to probation.

Adams lost his reelection bid in 2020, while Jacobs ran unopposed that year.

Whitis will remain judge pro tempore until further order of the Supreme Court.

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