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[SUPREME] Public Admonition of Fremont Town Court Judge
Start Date: 11/19/2012 All Day
End Date: 11/19/2012
Entry Description
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has issued a Public Admonition to Fremont Town Court Judge Martha C. Hagerty. The admonition (attached) is the result of a November 2008 traffic infraction case in which Judge Hagerty improperly engaged in multiple ex parte conversations and assumed the role of the prosecutor when she attempted to negotiate a resolution to a defendant’s case.

Judge Hagerty admits her actions violated the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct. The Commission determined that formal disciplinary charges are warranted against her.  However, Supreme Court rules allow for the judicial officer and the Commission to agree to a public admonition, instead of filing charges.    

Details of the case can be found in the admonition. Briefly, the admonition stems from circumstances involving a traffic infraction ticket. The defendant in the case called the Fremont Town Court about the ticket, which had resulted in a driver’s license suspension. Judge Hagerty told the defendant his license would be reinstated if the defendant paid a fine. Eventually, the defendant sent a letter and called the Judge to request a hearing to contest the ticket. Judge Hagerty did not set the matter for hearing. 

In addition to the Judge speaking to the defendant without the prosecutor present, the Judge also spoke to the prosecutor about the case, without the defendant present. These one-sided conversations are called ex parte communications and are not allowed. Ex parte is a legal term used to describe a proceeding or conversation done with only one side present. Judge Hagerty admits the ex parte conversations violated Rule 2.9(A) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which forbids ex parte contacts absent a true emergency.  

The defendant continued to ask that a hearing be set in the case. Each time the defendant called, Judge Hagerty relayed an offer to resolve the case but did not set the matter for a hearing when the defendant indicated that he was not interested in the offer. The defendant also filed a motion for discovery. Rather than rule on the motion or set a hearing, Judge Hagerty again called the prosecutor to talk about the case. The defendant sent correspondence to the judge and expressed frustration the case had not been set for a hearing. Eventually, the prosecutor filed a motion to dismiss the case, and Judge Hagerty granted the motion.

Judge Hagerty acknowledges she violated Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires judges to promote confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary and violated Rule 2.2 of the code which requires judges to perform duties fairly and impartially.  

The 7-member Commission on Judicial Qualifications investigates alleged ethical misconduct by judges. The Court gives the Commission discretion to issue a Public Admonition instead of filing formal charges against a judge when it determines a Public Admonition sufficiently addresses the misconduct and the judge consents to that resolution. The official censure from the Commission, the Public Admonition, is kept on file with the Commission and is posted online at courts.in.gov/jud-qual/2377.htm
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Entry Type:
Press Release
Entry Category:
  • Alerts and Notification
  • Announcements
  • IN.gov Category:
  • Law & Justice
  • Agency Name
    Courts, Indiana

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