Judge suspended for 60 days for excessive delay in issuing ruling on prisoners’ petitions for relief

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Per Curiam.

This matter comes before the Court as a result of judicial disciplinary actions initiated on April 9, 2008, by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications (“Commission”) against Grant W. Hawkins, Judge in the Marion Superior Court, Criminal Division 5 (“Court 5”) and against Nancy Broyles, a Commissioner serving in Court 5. Judge Hawkins and Commissioner Broyles are charged with various violations of the Code of Judicial Conduct arising out of excessive delays in issuing rulings on prisoners’ petitions for post-conviction relief, which in one case resulted in a prisoner’s incarceration being unnecessarily prolonged by nearly two years, and other issues that arose during the Commission’s investigation of these delays.

Conclusion (slip op. at 22):  Because a majority of the Court favors a suspension without pay for a period of at least sixty (60) days, that is the effective disposition reached today in this matter.

Key Analysis (slip op. at 11, 13):  As to Judge Hawkins, the Masters found that his “handling of PCR cases in general and the Buntin case in particular caused not only personal harm to Buntin, it brought disrespect to the judiciary as a whole and caused the public to lose confidence in our courts” . . . The Masters faulted Judge Hawkins for failing to correct the misimpressions he and his staff gave to the Commission and for failing to give Buntin, the Commission, and the public an accurate and complete accounting of what happened in the Buntin case, including what exactly caused the almost two-year delay in ruling. The Court concurs with the Masters on these points.

Shepard, Chief Justice, dissenting:  “A suspension of sixty days without pay is not an adequate sanction for a judge whose disorganization and indifference caused a man wrongly to sit in prison for two years . . .”

Sullivan, Justice, dissenting:  “I believe that Judge Hawkins should be suspended from office for one year . . .”

Boehm, Justice, dissenting:  “In my view a thirty day suspension is a very substantial sanction and the most that these facts warrant . . .”

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