Attorneys for Respondent Attorneys for Commission On
Hon. James Danikolas Judicial Qualifications
Andrew V. Giorgi Meg W. Babcock
Crown Point, Indiana Donald R. Lundberg
Stanley W. Jablonski
IN THE MATTER OF THE ) HONORABLE JAMES ) Supreme Court Cause No. DANIKOLAS, Judge of the ) 45S00-0205-JD-281 Lake Superior Court ) __________________________________________________________________
JUDICIAL DISCIPLINARY ACTION__________________________________________________________________
After the Commission filed formal charges but before the matter could be heard
by the judges appointed to take evidence in this proceeding, the parties jointly
tendered a Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline. The Court
accepted the conditional agreement. The parties have stipulated to the following facts.
On June 19, 2000, Wifes attorney, James Thiros, filed a motion for proceedings
supplemental, in which he asserted that Husband had paid nothing against the judgment.
On July 19, 2000, Magistrate Costa Sakelaris presided over a hearing on
the proceedings supplemental. Husband was ordered to provide within 10 days to
Mr. Thiros documentation relating to income tax returns, an insurance policy, and his
indebtedness on a vehicle. He was also ordered to begin making payments
to Wife of $300.00 per month. The Magistrates order was counter-signed by
On September 6, 2000, James Thiros filed on behalf of Wife a motion
seeking a contempt citation, alleging that Husband had failed to make any payments
as ordered and had failed to provide the documents as ordered. On
October 11, 2000, attorney Willie Harris entered an appearance for Husband.
The matter ultimately was heard by Magistrate Costa Sakelaris on January 31, 2001.
Wife appeared with James Thiros, and Husband appeared with an associate of
Willie Harris, Angela Bryant. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Magistrate
found Husband in contempt of court for non-payment of support and for otherwise
violating the courts prior order. She signed an order for his incarceration
subject to a $10,000.00 escrow bond. At some point after the hearing,
Respondent counter-signed the order of incarceration.
On Monday, February 5, 2001, without prior notice to Wife or her attorney,
Respondent signed an order releasing Husband without the necessity of posting bond.
Before signing the order, Respondent did not inquire of the Magistrate the basis
for her incarceration order, nor did he review the file or the tape
of the January 31, 2001 hearing.
The parties agreement recites:
Respondent was prompted to sign the February 5, 2001 facsimile form order sent by an unidentified person at the Harris Law Office after a report from the office manager, Cheryl Freeman, that on January 31, 2001, the Magistrate had incarcerated Husband, who during a hearing in 2000, had to be transported by ambulance from the courtroom to the hospital.
The February 5, 2001 order in the Record of Judgments and Orders in the office of the Lake County Clerk originally included a facsimile header at the top indicating the source of the order as NorthWest Engineering (used at times by the Harris Law Office). Sometime prior to October 18, 2001, the original order was replaced by a re-typed version. The re-typed version did not show the source of the order as NorthWest Engineering. Respondents original signature is on this re-typed order. No witness or evidence has identified the source of the re-typed order or the reason for its creation and placement in the Records of Judgments and Orders.
Respondent denies any knowledge of the source of the re-typed order described above.
He denies any knowledge of the reason for its creation and placement
in the Records of Judgments and Orders. However, in light of the
fact that his signature is on the order, he accepts accountability for the
appearance of impropriety created by these circumstances.
A period of suspension is often the appropriate sanction for violating Canon 3B(8). In the present case, however, the Judicial Qualifications Commission has determined and requested the imposition of a public reprimand. In light of the agreement of the Commission and Respondent, we accept this sanction. Accordingly, James Danikolas, Judge of the Lake Superior Court, is hereby reprimanded. This discipline terminates the disciplinary proceedings relating to the circumstances of this cause. The costs of this proceeding are assessed against Respondent.
All Justices concur.