An Indiana Supreme Court panel decided against filing charges against a Marion County juvenile court judge but instead issued a private warning in response to allegations he gave preferential treatment to an Indiana lawmaker, reports the Indianapolis Star. Judge James Payne said that the court’s Commission on Judicial Qualifications has closed its inquiry into his actions in a case involving the daughter of state Rep. Robert W. Behning. Commission members gave Payne the least punitive sanction — a private caution.
Public defender Janice Stevens charged that Payne opened the court on a holiday and conducted a hearing for Behning’s 12-year-old daughter. Stevens maintained that Payne violated the girl’s rights by allowing her parents to waive her right to an attorney. Behning had a conflict of interest, said Stevens, because he was a victim of her alleged theft. Indiana judges are rarely sanctioned. Of 336 complaints submitted to the commission last year, eight judges were issued private cautions, two were publicly admonished, and one was suspended for 30 days. Indiana is among 44 states that allow discipline for judges to be shielded from public view, says the Chicago-based Center for Judicial Ethics.