Former Adams Co. judge banned from court service for life over campaign misconduct

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A former Adams County drug court judge has been banned for life from court service in Indiana after violating judicial conduct rules related to his failed 2020 re-election campaign.

Former Adams Superior Court judge Patrick R. Miller also received a public reprimand on Friday — his second — in addition to a lifetime ban from court service.

According to an order approving the statement of circumstances and conditional disciplinary agreement, Miller’s discipline involved his drug court coordinator, whom he hired in 2015. While the order identifies the coordinator as “employee” , she is identified in separate disciplinary documents as Kelly Sickafoose.

Sickafoose had an office in the Adams County Courthouse and attended drug court sessions, sitting at a bench-side desk. When Miller launched his 2020 re-election campaign, Sickafoose assisted him with his campaign at the courthouse and during office hours, including interviewing other court workers about campaign materials.

According to the order, “the respondent never adequately explained to the employee that there were rules about working on court campaigns while also working for the court or that there were rules prohibiting that campaign work is done inside court facilities”.

One Thursday during the campaign cycle, Miller and Sickafoose stopped at a store around noon to order campaign T-shirts, then picked up the shirts another Thursday around 1 p.m. in his role as a judge.

Then, one Friday, the two drove to the local newspaper office around 9:30 a.m. so that Sickafoose could review Miller’s campaign ad and discuss it with the sales manager. The fact that it was a Friday meant that Sickafoose “would have been wearing clothes with the drug court logo on it.”

“The respondent and the employee never discussed the public appearance of a court employee accompanying the respondent to the newspaper office to review a campaign ad mid-morning on a business day,” the statement reads. ‘order.

Miller’s discipline also stems from an independent conduct of his work with Sickafoose. The Indiana Supreme Court pointed to its relationship with a drug court defendant who, while Miller was on the bench, asked the judge for a campaign sign.

“While still seated on the bench and dressed in his robe, Respondent discussed with Defendant the size of the panel that Defendant wanted and confirmed that Defendant would be provided with a court panel,” the court wrote. high court in Friday’s order. “Other drug court members, including the employee and the prosecutor, overheard this conversation.

“A small sign was delivered to the defendant’s yard and posted. In September or October 2020, the defendant delivered a large campaign sign to the defendant’s yard and removed the small sign. »

Miller, a Republican, lost the 2020 general election to current Justice Sam Conrad, an independent. He left the bench at the end of December 2020.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed disciplinary charges against Miller in November 2021. The parties agreed that he violated seven provisions of the Indiana Judicial Code, including:

  • Rule 1.1, requiring a judge to obey the law.
  • Rule 1.2, requiring a judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary, and to avoid irregularities and appearance of irregularities.
  • Rule 3.1(C), prohibiting judges from engaging in activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the independence, integrity or impartiality of the judge.
  • Rule 4.1(A)(10), prohibiting judges and judicial nominees from using judicial staff, facilities, or other resources in a campaign for judicial office.
  • Rule 4.1(B), requiring judges or judicial candidates to take reasonable steps to ensure that others do not undertake, on behalf of the judge or judicial candidate, activities that are prohibited under Rule 4.1(A).
  • Rule 4.2(A)(1), requiring a candidate for the bench in a partisan, nonpartisan, or retention election to act at all times in a manner consistent with independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.
  • Rule 4.2(A)(2), requiring a candidate for the bench in a partisan, nonpartisan, or retention election to comply with all applicable election, campaign, and fundraising laws and regulations of election campaign.

Miller’s earlier public rebuke has been cited as an aggravating factor in the present case.

In his first disciplinary case, 20S-JD-108, Miller in 2020 was found guilty of violating four rules of judicial ethics related to a dispute with other county officials on Sickafoose’s behalf.

Sickafoose was first hired as a contractor, so County Auditor Mary Beery refused to pay Sickafoose County benefits. Sickafoose filed a tort claim against Beery, and his attorney was working to reach a settlement on that claim.

Meanwhile, Miller issued an order requiring Beery to provide proof of payment to Sickafoose within 48 hours or face contempt. When the case went to a special judge, Miller sent a letter, on Adams County letterhead, asking that Beery be held in contempt.

As the case continued, Sickafoose’s attorney continued to negotiate with a county attorney, making it appear that Miller had strategized with Sickafoose’s legal team.

A second special judge eventually issued judgment for Beery, and the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld. In Friday’s case, Miller’s remorse and acceptance of responsibility were cited as mitigating.

“A sanction for judicial misconduct ‘must be designed to discourage others from engaging in similar misconduct and to assure the public that judicial misconduct will not be tolerated,'” the High Court wrote, citing In re Hawkins, 902 NE2d 231, 244 (Ind. 2009). “The penalty agreed to by the parties will prohibit the respondent from exercising the functions of an officer of the court.”

A fee of $1,496.72 is also charged to Miller.

The case is In the case of the Honorable Patrick R. Miller, former Superior Court Justice Adams, 21S-JD-513.

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