Justia Legal Ethics Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Indiana Supreme Court

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Relators were magistrates in the Lake Superior Court, Juvenile Division. Respondents were the Lake Superior Court, Lake Circuit Court, and the courts' judges. Relators complained about a decision made by Respondents to allow Judge Nicholas Schiralli to be reassigned from the Superior Court's County Division to its Juvenile Division. Relators filed this action seeking a permanent writ of mandamus and prohibition, arguing that a transfer of the Judge to the Juvenile Division would violate Ind. Code 33-33-45-21(e). Relators requested a permanent writ (1) declaring that Judge Schiralli could not be reassigned to the Juvenile Division; and (2) ruling that no current judge of the Superior Court was eligible for transfer to the Juvenile Division. The Supreme Court granted in part and denied in part the relief sought by Relators, holding (1) section 33-33-45-21(e) prevents Respondents from reassigning, transferring, or rotating Judge Schiralli from the County Division to the Juvenile Division; and (2) but this prohibition did not preclude the Judge from applying to be appointed, under the merit-selection process, to fill a vacancy in the other divisions of the court. View "State ex rel. Commons v. Lake Superior Court" on Justia Law

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After an automobile collision in which Travis Becker struck Rickey Whitaker, Whitaker filed suit for personal injuries. Thereafter, Whitaker's lawyer ignored repeated requests to provide information about his client's medical treatment, responded only after the trial court ordered him to do so, and then supplied false and misleading information in a way that damaged Becker's ability to ascertain the facts necessary to litigate the case. Becker's counsel filed a motion for sanctions. The trial court found that Whitaker and his lawyer had acted in bad faith and dismissed the case. The Supreme Court affirmed the trial court, holding that the court acted within its discretion in making it clear to counsel that this type of behavior was unacceptable. View "Whitaker v. Becker" on Justia Law

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Respondent, a judge of the city court, dismissed the traffic infraction cases of all litigants who attended traffic school and paid the applicable fee. Respondent also entered default judgment, imposed fines and court costs, and ordered the suspension of driver's licenses of all litigants who selected traffic school but failed to complete the class. Respondent, however, had no authority to discharge traffic infraction cases without a specific request from the prosecuting attorney or to divert litigants' cases through a de facto deferral program not authorized by the county prosecutor. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications then brought a judicial disciplinary action against Respondent. Respondent and the Commission agreed that by referring traffic infraction litigants to the traffic school and then dismissing their cases upon their completion of the program without any dismissal request from the prosecutor, Respondent abused his judicial authority, committed conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice, and violated the Code of Judicial Conduct's provisions that required him to comply with the law. As a sanction for this misconduct, the Supreme Court suspended Respondent from office without pay for a period of sixty days. View "In re Judge Harkin " on Justia Law