Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Judges Gone Wild; Altercation Started With Middle Finger Salute

The Indiana Supreme Court suspended three judges for a much-reported incident in a White Castle parking lot

We find the Respondents—the Honorable Andrew Adams, Judge of the Clark Circuit Court , the Honorable Bradley B. Jacobs, Judge of the Clark Circuit Court , and the Honorable Sabrina R. Bell, Judge of the Crawford Circuit Court—engaged in judicial misconduct by appearing in public in an intoxicated state and behaving in an injudicious manner and by becoming involved in a verbal altercation. We also find that Judge Adams and Judge Jacobs engaged in judicial misconduct by becoming involved in a physical altercation for which Judge Adams was criminally charged and convicted. Respondents’ actions were not merely embarrassing on a personal level; they discredited the entire Indiana judiciary.

This matter is before us on the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications’ (“Commission’s”) “Notice[s] of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and Statement of Charges” against Respondents. After charges were filed, each Respondent separately tendered, jointly with the Commission, a “Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline” stipulating to certain facts.

Although these proceedings were filed under different case numbers, we issue a single opinion for all three cases because the misconduct charges stem from the same incident.

The judges were attending the Spring Judicial College and the night before

At around 12:30 a.m. on May 1, Respondents and Clark Circuit Court Magistrate William Dawkins (“Magistrate Dawkins”) met at a local bar, where they continued to drink alcohol. At around 3:00 a.m., the group walked to a strip club and tried to enter, but found that it was closed.

The group then walked to a nearby White Castle. While Magistrate Dawkins went inside, Respondents stood outside the restaurant. At around 3:17 a.m., Alfredo Vazquez and Brandon Kaiser drove past the group and shouted something out the window. Judge Bell extended her middle finger to Vazquez and Kaiser, who pulled into the White Castle parking lot and exited the vehicle. Judge Bell, who was intoxicated, has no memory of the incident but concedes that the security camera video shows her making this gesture.

A heated verbal altercation ensued, with all participants yelling, using profanity, and making dismissive, mocking, or insolent gestures toward the other group. At no time did Respondents move to another location in the parking lot to avoid a confrontation or de-escalate the conflict.

After a verbal exchange between Judge Bell and Vazquez, a physical confrontation ensued. At one point, Judge Jacobs had Kaiser contained on the ground. With his fist raised back, Judge Jacobs said, “Okay, okay, we’re done, we’re done,” or “This is over. Tell me this is over,” or words to that effect. At another point during the confrontation, Judge Adams kicked Kaiser in the back. The confrontation ended when Kaiser pulled out a gun, shot Judge Adams once, and shot Judge Jacobs twice.

Judge Adams and Judge Jacobs were transported to local hospitals for treatment of their serious injuries. Judge Adams, who sustained a single gunshot wound to the abdomen, had two emergency surgeries, including a colon resectioning. Judge Jacobs, who sustained two gunshot wounds to the chest, also had two emergency surgeries and was hospitalized for 14 days.

The court

While in town to attend a statewide educational conference for judicial officers, 10 hours before the program convened, Respondents walked the streets of downtown Indianapolis in a heavily intoxicated state. When Judge Bell extended her middle finger to a passing vehicle, neither Judge Adams nor Judge Jacobs discouraged the provocation or removed themselves from the situation. Instead, all three Respondents joined in a profane verbal altercation that quickly turned into physical violence and ended in gunfire, and in doing so, gravely undermined public trust in the dignity and decency of Indiana’s judiciary.


The Court orders that Andrew Adams, who already is under an interim suspension, shall be suspended without pay from the office of Judge of the Clark Circuit Court 1 for sixty (60) days, effective immediately...

The Court orders that Bradley B. Jacobs shall be suspended from the office of Judge of the Clark Circuit Court 2 without pay for thirty (30) days commencing at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, November 22, 2019...

The Court orders that Sabrina R. Bell shall be suspended from the office of Judge of the Crawford Circuit Court without pay for thirty (30) days commencing at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, November 22, 2019. 

(Mike Frisch)


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