Judiciary

Indiana judge is removed from office for rude conduct, delayed dispositions and retaliation


The Indiana Supreme Court has removed a Marion County judge from office for “significant judicial misconduct” but is allowing her to continue to practice law.

The court removed Judge Kimberly Brown after three special masters found she committed misconduct alleged in 46 of 47 counts, according to the supreme court opinion (PDF). The Indianapolis Star says Brown is only the third Indiana judge to be permanently banned from the bench in the last 20 years.

At first Brown argued she had bad staffers and had taken steps to correct the problems, but she later apologized and sought a 60-day suspension, according to the story by the Indianapolis Star.

Among the violations cited by the Indiana Supreme Court:

• Brown fired the chief bailiff, apparently because Brown believed that person was providing information to or filing a complaint with ethics regulators. Brown later suggested she fired the chief bailiff for job performance issues, but Brown was unable to be specific in her deposition.

• Brown delayed the release of 10 defendants by failing to complete paperwork and failing to properly train court staff. The delays ranged from one to 22 days. When other judges investigated the delayed releases, Brown sent “a discourteously phrased email.”

• Brown delayed rulings and failed to complete necessary paperwork. In one case, a defendant filed a petition for post-conviction relief in 2009, but the matter was never set for a hearing until a new judge took over in 2013. Brown also delayed carrying out orders of the appeals court. In one case, she failed to vacate a judgment of conviction after an appeals court reversed and remanded for a new trial in 2010. The omission was corrected when a new judge took over in 2013.

• Brown removed case files from file drawers and kept them in her locked office, making it difficult to find the files and delaying the processing of pleadings. She often blamed employees with the clerk’s office for missing files that were found in her own office. In one instance, she asked a deputy court clerk whether she blamed Brown for the missing files, and later banned the clerk from her courtroom.

• Brown had a policy of continuing bench trials if she believed they could not be completed by 4 p.m.

• Brown treated some lawyers in a “rude and discourteous manner.” In 2009 she asked supervisors to remove two public defenders from her court, saying they were “too adversarial,” “extremely litigious” and “not aiding in the movement of cases.” She called one lawyer a “moron” and another a “pain in the ass,” she “crassly remarked” about a deputy prosecutor’s weight, and she referred to a PD supervisor as “evil.”

• Brown treated some staff members “discourteously and with hostility,” favoring some staffers over others. She told favored employees that one worker “wears lesbianism on her sleeve,” one was “ghetto fabulous,” and others were mentally ill or in need of increased medication.

A concurring justice, Robert Rucker, said Brown’s misconduct amounted to mismanagement of judicial duties and inappropriate demeanor. He would have given Brown an immediate 60-day suspension without pay, followed by a one-year period of supervised probation. If she failed, she would be removed from office.

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