Tuesday, April 8, 2014
A town court justice who presided over traffic, minor drug and alcohol offenses and small claims matters was suspended from the practice of law for not less than five years without automatic reinstatement by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Defendants who faced first-time traffic charges would receive deferred prosecution "if they took a defensive driving course." Such courses were conducted in the justice's courtroom on a Saturday with the profits going to the driving school.
But things changed
In October 2001, Respondent created her own business called Diversified Educational Services ("DES") which offered the defensive driving courses. Respondent's father contracted with W.S.1 to open a checking account in the name of DES, which Respondent and her father controlled. Respondent directed that the fees collected from defendants that she ordered to attend the driving school be deposited into the DES account. Between November 2001 and December 2003, people attending DES driving school paid fees totaling $29,600. W.S. was shown as the sole owner of the account to conceal Respondent's financial interest in DES. Respondent paid W.S. $3,800 from the DES account for his cooperation. Respondent did not disclose her financial interest in DES to the Town or to defendants charged with traffic offenses in her court.
In December 2001, Respondent stopped paying rent to the Town for DES's use of the courtroom for the driving classes. Between December 2001 and December 2003, DES conducted sixteen driving school classes for which no rent was paid to the Town.
The justice also used her position to profit from referral of young adults to a counseling program and concealed her financial interest in the referrals.
The justice was convicted of mail fraud and was suspended on an interim basis as a result. The court considered a number of mitigating factors. (Mike Frisch)