The Indiana Supreme Court has suspended Marion Superior Judge Kimberly J. Brown pending a decision on final disciplinary action on misconduct charges. The suspension with pay could be followed by an order to remove Brown from the bench after a three-judge panel found clear and convincing evidence against her on 46 out of 47 counts of judicial misconduct. That is quite a record since Brown has yet to finish her first term.
The Supreme Court rejected a proposed finite suspension of 60 days by Brown and went with the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Qualifications. A three-judge panel last month for Brown to be permanently removed from the bench.
The panel found that Brown was abusive to lawyers and attorneys and failed to properly train or supervise court employees. She was also accused of delaying the release of at least nine defendants from jail. She was also accused of improperly dismissing a bailiff who cooperated in the charges against her and later failing to cooperate with the commission’s investigation. The later charge included a refusal to be sworn in as part of the commission proceedings.
While Brown first denied the allegations, she later apologized and sought a more lenient punishment.
She did not get it. The panel assembled 107 pages of findings of fact, conclusions of law that covered more than 80 violations. She was only cleared on Count 22 — an allegation that she interrupted a public defender and treated him in an injudicious manner.
What is interesting about the report of the panel is that Brown appears to have focused much of her hostility on public defendants, a pattern that even drew objections from prosecutors who felt uncomfortable by the mistreatment of their opposing counsel. She was also accused of a pattern of misplacing and mishandling files.
The panel or “special masters” was composed of retired Monroe Circuit Judge Viola Taliaferro, Boone Superior Judge Rebecca S. McClure and Lake Superior Judge Sheila M. Moss.
Among the rule violations were:
Rule 1.2: Acting in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary. Thirty-six violations.
Rule 2.5(A): Performing judicial duties competently, diligently and promptly. Thirty violations.
Rule 2.12(A): Duties of judicial office take precedence over a judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities. Eight violations.
Rule 2.8(B): Judge shall be patient, dignified and courteous to litigants, jurors, witnesses, lawyers, court staff, court officials and others with whom the judge deals in an official capacity and shall require similar conduct. Eight violations.
Rule 1.1: A judge shall comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct. One violation.
Rule 2.6(A): Allowing anyone with a legal interest in a proceeding, or that person’s lawyer, the right to be heard according to law. One violation.
Brown sits on the Superior Court of Marion County, Indiana and was elected to the court in 2008. She received her undergraduate degree from Purdue University in 1986 and her J.D. from the Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis in 1991. This was not her first judicial positions. Brown was a judge of the Washington Township Small Claims Court. She was also a judge pro tem for the Center Township Small Claims Court, and a deputy attorney general and commissioner for the Marion County Probate Court.