INDIANAPOLIS – An Indiana judge who was removed from the bench against her will engaged in a pattern of official misconduct, including by failing to order a new trial for a defendant whose conviction had been reversed years earlier and insulting attorneys and her staff in profane terms, the state Supreme Court found.
Marion Superior Court Judge Kimberly Brown is only the fourth judge to be involuntarily removed from office in nearly 20 years, according to court records. She is the first judge to be unwillingly barred from office since 2004.
Three judges appointed to investigate the complaints against Brown found she had committed judicial misconduct in 46 out of 47 counts.
The Supreme Court order makes Brown ineligible for judicial office, although she will be allowed to practice law. Her removal from office took place immediately.
Brown opposed her recommended removal and instead asked to be placed on a 60-day suspension. She did not dispute the three judges’ findings. She has 30 days in which to request a rehearing.
Brown’s attorney, Karl Mulvaney, declined to comment to The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Joel Schumm, an Indiana University law professor, told the AP by email that it is rare for judges in Indiana to be involuntarily removed from the bench.
“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,” Schumm said. “Removal was warranted in this case based on Judge Brown’s repeated and pervasive misconduct.”
Among the misconduct cited in the Supreme Court order issued Tuesday was a case in which Brown never took action on an appeal filed in May 2009. The appeal was not taken up until a new judge took over Brown’s court in 2013.
Brown also twice delayed vacating convictions reversed by higher courts – in one case for about three years – and failed to order 10 defendants released from jail when they should have been, the order said.
The justices said staff members told investigators that Brown demonstrated a grudge against public defenders. The justices also chastised Brown for profane and insulting remarks about attorneys and employees that she made in front of court staff, including statements involving persons’ weight, mental health and sexual orientation.
The order said Brown shouted in the courtroom and her treatment caused five employees to cry.
According to the order, Brown fired a bailiff she believed intended to file a complaint against her and issued disciplinary warnings to two other employees that investigators found were in retaliation for their cooperation in the probe.
“The use of judicial power of an instrument of retaliation is a serious violation of the Code of Conduct,” the justices wrote.
The state Supreme Court also found that Brown had mismanaged her office.
Justice Robert Rucker disagreed with the order and said Brown should be given a second chance by being suspended for 60 days and placed on probation for one year.
The last judge to be involuntarily removed by the Supreme Court was Lake Superior Court Judge Joan Kouros, in 2004.
Brown began her judicial career as a small claims court judge in 2002 and moved to criminal court in 2009.