The Indiana Supreme Court has ordered that Marion County Superior Judge Kimberly Brown be permanently removed from the bench, after three judges appointed to investigate complaints against her found she had committed judicial misconduct in 46 of 47 counts against her.
The order, entered on March 4, 2014, cannot be appealed, but Brown's license to practice law was not affected. Brown has been on paid leave since January 9, 2014, and has filed to run for re-election in the Democratic Primary in May. The party has slated another candidate to replace her. Brown was in the final year of her first term.
Among the ethical breaches found against Brown were numerous instances in which she intentionally delayed the release of defendants. She delayed releases ordered by higher courts – in one case, for three years – and failed to order 10 defendants released from jail when they should have been, the order said.
Other misconduct included profane and insulting remarks about attorneys and court employees, made in front of court staff, in which she criticized people's weight, mental health status, and sexual orientation. The order said Brown shouted in her courtroom and made at least five employees cry.
The justices said that court employees told them that Brown demonstrated a "grudge" against public defenders, and fired a bailiff she believed intended to file a complaint against her. She issued disciplinary warnings to other employees in retaliation for their cooperation in the probe. "The use of judicial power as an instrument of retaliation is a serious violation of the Code of Conduct," the justices wrote.
It is rare for Indiana judges to be removed from the bench. Brown is only the fourth in the last 20 years, and the first since 2004. "Discipline is imposed on average less than twice each year, and the sanctions are usually much less severe, such as a public reprimand or possibly a short period of suspension," said Joel Schumm, an Indiana University law professor. "Removal is warranted in this case based on Judge Brown's repeated and pervasive misconduct."
Brown did not dispute that she had committed multiple ethical violations. She argued that she had a poor staff and offered to take a 60-day suspension, for the "pattern of neglect, hostility, retaliation and recalcitrance toward investigating officials" mentioned in the court's order.
Sources: Associated Press, www.indystar.com, www.therepublic.com
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