Magistrate investigated on allegations of slow work flow
July 07, 2010 12:00 am
By Bob Kasarda
VALPARAISO - The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission is investigating a complaint that Porter County Magistrate Judge James Johnson is taking too long in processing cases, according to Superior Court Judge David Chidester.
Chidester notified members of the county bar association of the allegations by e-mail Friday and requested input from the attorneys.
While making it clear he is not speaking on behalf of the county's other five judges and has no idea what action he and the others will take when they discuss the investigation during their monthly meeting July 20, Chidester invited the attorneys to submit their resumes to his court. Those who wish to remain confidential were invited to send their resumes to a post office box in his name.
Porter Superior Court Judge Roger Bradford, who supervises Johnson, said there is no need for anyone to send in a resume because there are no plans to replace Johnson.
Bradford declined to comment on the pending investigation so as not to violate disclosure rules used by the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Johnson did not return calls for comment.
A call Tuesday to the commission was referred to Indiana Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan, who said investigations into alleged misconduct are confidential.
"If the commission believes misconduct has occurred it can file charges against a judge," she said. "Those charges are a matter of public record."
She would not confirm an investigation, but said Johnson currently is in good standing with the court and has not ever had a public discipline case.
A state judicial investigation can result in potential penalties ranging from a reprimand to removal, Chidester said.
The six local judges, who appoint two of the county's three magistrates, including Johnson, can take their own action, he said.
Chidester said he decided to notify bar members of the allegations to let them know what's going on, attempt to determine the scope of the alleged problem and seek resumes from those interested in the post.
He called on the Family Law Section of the bar association to meet and advise the judges if a problem exists and, if so, the extent of the problem and what should be done. He also reminded the attorneys of their obligation to report any negative impact on their clients caused by faulty caseload management by judges or magistrates.
Porter County Magistrates Johnson and Katherine Forbes handle divorce and estate cases.
The juvenile court magistrate is appointed by the circuit court judge.