A shocking NBC News piece says three Indiana state judges have been suspended without pay after they went on a drinking spree that resulted in a brawl and them getting shot at. Luckily, no one was killed in this incident which happened on May 1 after the judges attended a Judicial conference in Indianapolis and decided on a night of drinking afterwards.
The judges apparently left the judicial conference where they had been drinking, went to a bar for some more drinks and then decided to visit a local strip club after 3am. (Yeah, Judges go to strip clubs? Who knew?) Because the strip club was closed, they settled for a White Castle Restaurant.
It is at the parking lot of the White Castle restaurant that one of the judges, Sabrina Bell flipped off some motorists, who then got out of their car and got in a verbal altercation with the judges which resulted in a brawl and them getting shot at. According to the NBC News piece judge Sabrina Bell was so drunk that night that when she spoke to investigators she could not even remember flipping off the motorists–the very thing that caused the fight.
Lately there has been a lot of talk about judicial misconduct and specifically whether judges should be allowed to continue policing themselves. This topic came to a head after the contentious confirmation of Justice Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kavanaugh was the subject of a lot of complaints while he was a federal appeals judge, including some that he lied to Congress (a felony).
The public was concerned that complaints against Kavanaugh were not being fully addressed because judges basically police themselves and more often than not, just give each other a pass when complaints are filed against them. The other issue with Kavanaugh was this defense that because he was now a Supreme Court justice, the rules that applied to his tenure as a federal appeals judge were no longer applicable. There is no judicial complaint mechanism for U.S. Supreme Court justices so the complaints against Kavanaugh basically vanished.
This troubling incident in Indiana will certainly lead to more calls for some stricter accountability measures against judges, beyond the judicial complaint system which most legal analysts agree is toothless. Should judges be subject to an outside independent disciplinary body? Would this be too disruptive to the judicial process, especially if it is left to politicians? These are some of the weighty questions that need to be addressed in light of this troubling Indiana incident.
As it currently stands, these three judges are on suspension without pay but all indications are that they will be allowed to resume their duties after a few weeks. Is it possible for the public to ever respect these judges if they are put back on the bench after this incident? In my humble opinion, any judge who goes out on a drinking spree, then ends up looking for a strip club after 3 am, then gets into a brawl with a member of the public where shots are fired, is for all intents and purposes disqualified from ever serving as a judge in the United States.
Anybody who allows these characters to resume their judicial duties will be doing so to the detriment of the entire Indiana judiciary. As a matter of fact there needs to be a thorough investigation into their conduct as judges because troubling incidents like these are often symptoms of much bigger, unaddressed issues.
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