Monday, July 20, 2009

Indiana Judge Admonished

From the web page of the Indiana Supreme Court:

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has issued a Public Admonition against the Honorable Roger L. Huizenga, Walkerton Town Court in St. Joseph County.  Supreme Court rules give the Commission the discretion to issue a Commission Admonition instead of filing formal charges when the judge consents to that resolution and when the Commission determines that a Public Admonition sufficiently address the misconduct alleged.    Public Admonitions are kept on file with the Commission and also can be read by the public on the Commission’s website.  The Admonition against Judge Huizenga details his violation of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct for two separate incidents.

In one incident, Judge Huizenga was investigated for his actions that took place November 14, 2007.  On that day, a defendant approached Judge Huizenga in his office about tickets she received for speeding and an expired license plate infraction.  Judge Huizenga informed the defendant that she would have to pay the speeding ticket, but the expired license plate infraction would be dismissed if the license plate was renewed within thirty days.  The defendant agreed to the offer but later failed to renew her plate, which resulted in the suspension of her driver’s license.  No deputy prosecutor was present for the conversation between Judge Huizenga and the defendant. The conversation is considered ex parte and is not allowed.  Ex Parte is a Latin word defined as "by or for one party" and refers to situations in which only one party and not the other appears before a judge.  Except for limited exceptions not applicable to this matter, the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits a judge from having a conversation with one party about substantive matters of the case when the other party is not present and is not given an opportunity to be heard. 

Judge Huizenga acknowledges that this conduct violated Canons 1 and 2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to ensure the fairness, impartiality, and integrity of the judiciary.  He also admits that he violated Canon 3B(8), which forbids judges from initiating, permitting, or considering ex parte communications. 

In a separate incident, Judge Huizenga was investigated for actions that took place from November 1995 through March 13, 2009 when Judge Huizenga employed his wife as the court clerk.  In 1998, the Commission issued an Advisory Opinion setting out guidelines and restrictions for judges considering hiring relatives or friends.  In that opinion, Indiana judges were advised to contact the Commission to discuss the potential employment of relatives and further were informed that “the employment or appointment of a spouse likely will never be appropriate.”  Judge Huizenga did not contact the Commission to ask about the propriety of his wife’s continued employment with the court.  However, after the initiation of the Commission’s investigation, Judge Huizenga did cooperate with the Commission by encouraging his wife to resign, which she ultimately did.

Judge Huizenga acknowledges that this conduct violated Canon 3C(4) and Rule 2.12, which state that a judge should avoid nepotism and favoritism.

The Public Admonition concludes the Commission’s investigation, and Judge Huizenga will not formally be charged with ethical misconduct. Judge Huizenga fully cooperated with the Commission and acknowledges he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct.  The Public Admonition can be found at http://courts.in.gov/jud-qual/admonitions.html.

(Mike Frisch)

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Judicial Ethics and the Courts | Permalink

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