Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Center Township Small Claims Court Resigns In Wake Of Wedding Ceremony Flap

WRTV's Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney tweeted moments ago that Center Township Small Claims Court Judge Michelle Scott has resigned from the bench. Kenney first broke a story a couple of weeks ago raising questions about whether court staff and resources were being used to refer people applying for marriage licenses in Marion County to a private office down the street from the City-County Building where she and her husband officiated wedding ceremonies for a fee. Kenney's Call 6 investigation found that Judge Scott and her husband far out-distanced all others in Marion Co. performing wedding ceremonies. An undercover camera caught public employees providing business cards for Judge Scott's private office and providing directions to her office.

Kara Kenney@KaraKenney6 18m
BREAKING: Judge Michelle Scott resigns following stories re: whether she's using public resources to promote her private biz
After Kenney's report first aired, Circuit Court Judge Louis Rosenberg expressed concerns about the practice. He told Kenney today that he planned to recommend a change in rules governing small claims court judge's conduct to make it clear that judges couldn't use public resources to benefit their private business activities. "I have found that the ethical boundaries on part-time judges publicizing their availability to perform weddings needs to be clarified," Judge Rosenberg told Kenney. "Part-time judges are allowed to do part-time activities, including doing weddings. But on the other hand, you can't trade on the fact that you're a judge." Rosenberg declined to offer his opinion on whether Judge Scott violated any rules of conduct for judges. Judge Scott was defeated for re-election in this past May's Democratic primary. Her term of office would have ended at the end of this year.

UPDATE: Kenney's story is now online. Marion Co. Democratic Chairman Joel Miller tells Kenney that Democratic leaders will likely to choose the party's November candidate for the small claims court, Brenda Roper, to complete the remainder of her term.


local landlord said...

I always found Judge Scott to be a real class act. She’s really going to be missed in that courtroom. This wedding flap was a minor thing and I hate that she resigned over it. Some smart corporate CEO ought to snap her up. She’s a winner in my book and I’ll bet she’s just mortified that her penchant for conducting lovely weddings became so controversial. I expect big things from her.

Anonymous said...

First, the Center Twp offices have been renowned for bad acts. It was only recently published that they were improperly using official "Police" license plates that were invalid. Center Township Trustee Eugene Akers used taxpayer dollars to purchase a $37,000 Dodge Charger for his personal use as a deputy constable.

It is time for the Statehouse to implement the recommendations of the Commission on Local Government Reform and ELIMINATE townships!

The action of using the Court and Staff to promote the private business of holding marriage ceremonies for great profit and the fact that this judge is distinguished by far out-distancing all others in Marion Co. by performing wedding ceremonies is reprehensible and clearly improper.

I hope the Commission on Judicial Qualifications decides to hear this matter because it has great effect on the Judiciary and has harmed the perception of the Judiciary. A proper sanction is appropriate even if she resigned.

It appears the Code of Conduct was violated:

RULE 1.3: Avoiding Abuse of the Prestige of Judicial Office

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests* of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.

RULE 3.1: Extrajudicial Activities in General

A judge may engage in extrajudicial activities, except as prohibited by law* or this Code. However, when engaging in extrajudicial activities, a judge shall not: (E) make use of court premises, staff, stationery, equipment, or other resources, except for incidental use or for activities that concern the law, the legal system, or the administration of justice.

"Corruption is as corruption does."

-The Democrat Machine

Anonymous said...

The purpose of judicial discipline is not primarily to punish a judge but to preserve the integrity of and public confidence in the judicial system and, when necessary, safeguard the bench and public from those who are unfit.

The characteristic that demands permanent removal from The Judiciary is this conduct involving moral turpitude, profiteering, misuse of court staff, and willful misconduct in office.

The sanction imposed must be designed to discourage others from engaging in similar misconduct and to assure the public that judicial misconduct will not be condoned.

If The Supreme Court does not issue judgment in this matter, the entire Judiciary has its integrity called into question, for one may resign from the bench and be appointed or run for a judicial office again.

In my opinion The People of Indiana may only conclude that protecting the integrity of the judicial system requires that the offender be barred from holding any Judicial office.

Ed Sprout said...

Is this a D-vorce?

Anonymous said...

RULE 1.3: Avoiding Abuse of the Prestige of Judicial Office

A judge shall not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests* of the judge or others, or allow others to do so.

There are more out there folks...Get busy...Mostly Marion and Boone and more...

Anonymous said...

Agree 8:37
One must also question appointees under Mitch as well.
Rosenberg comments irks many because he is a pay to play and if he new of inequities, why not change them.
The State of In is in dire need of the DC Integrity Division to step it up.

Anonymous said...

Local Landlord: Are you married to Small Claims Court Judge Michelle Scott???

Your comments are a joke.

Kara Kenney said...

As far as I know, no one has filed a complaint with the Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission

Gary R. Welsh said...

The Judicial Qualifications Commission could take it up on its own without someone filing a complaint.

Anonymous said...

I doubt The Bretheren would actually take it up on its own without someone filing a complaint, and say: "we had no idea what was going on; nobody filed a complaint."

Anonymous said...

I have filed a complaint against this judge in a different circumstances.