Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Indiana Judicial Qualifications Commission is Tired of Corrupt Family Court Judges and Lawyers

Recently punished Judge Daniel C. Banina, Miami Superior Court 2, and Lawyer Jeffry Price, of Peru, Indiana, has brought a warning from the Commission to all family court judges and lawyers:

In the Commission’s view, there is perhaps no greater injustice than to strip a parent of custodial rights without an opportunity to be heard and in the absence of an emergency. The Commission calls upon all judges and lawyers in Indiana to respect this fundamental notion, on the Commission and its counter-part, the Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission, attempted to convey now for several years, only to repeated address the same violation.

Read the story from the Peru newspaper about the dastardly duo:

A local judge and attorney are being publicly reprimanded for violating the state’s professional and judicial conduct rules. The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has issued a public admonition against Judge Dan Banina and the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission has imposed a public reprimand against Attorney Jeffry Price, both stemming from a February 2007 incident concerning the custody of a child. According to a press release, the commission states the incident involves a mother and father who were divorced but living together.

The couple had a child, but that child was under the sole custody of the mother. In January 2007, the mother decided to move from their home and take the child with her. The father and local police intervened and demanded she leave the child with the father. Then Price, the father’s attorney, filed a petition to establish paternity which included an emergency order for his client to receive temporary custody of the child. Banina granted it the next day, February 2, 2007. The order was granted in favor of the father without prior notice given to the mother - the only notice she received was service of the petition about two weeks after it was filed.

According to the commission, Banina should have ensured the mother had notice of the petition and held a hearing to resolve the custody dispute. Likewise Price, in seeking and obtaining the order, deprived the mother of an opportunity to be heard before the order was granted. Banina says he “made a mistake.” “I thought I was doing the right thing at the time,” he explained. “I should have required more information.”

Although charges were warranted, Banina’s admonition states, the judge is not being formally charged with misconduct. He cooperated fully with the commission and acknowledges he violated the Code of Judicial Conduct. His only punishment is to be publicly warned concerning the matter, which is the purpose of the admonition.

The decision of whether or not to file charges is generally based on prior history of disciplinary action or lack thereof, severity of the misconduct and whether or not the code was willfully violated, among other things. That’s according to Kathryn Dolan, the Indiana Supreme Court’s Public Information Officer.

Dolan said this is the first disciplinary action to be taken again Banina. Additionally, the Governor Mitch Daniels’ office said Wednesday that Banina fully disclosed the matter while it was pending in his application for appointment as judge over Miami County Superior Court 2, which he was appointed to as of Jan. 1. At the time of the incident he was judge of what is now Miami County Superior Court 1.

The admonition was issued on Jan. 20, 2009, as was Price’s public reprimand. It was issued by Randall T. Shepard, Chief Justice of Indiana, and states Price cooperated with the commission and has no prior misconduct.

Messages left at Price’s firm and home were not immediately returned Wednesday afternoon. Dolan declined to release the name of the party who initiated the process to have the incident reviewed by state officials.

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