Three Indiana judges who were involved in a drunken fight in May that ended in two of them getting shot have been temporarily suspended by the Indiana Supreme Court.
Their actions “were not merely embarrassing on a personal level; they discredited the entire Indiana judiciary,” the Nov. 12 per curiam opinion said.
Clark County Judges Andrew Adams and Bradley B. Jacobs, as well as Crawford Circuit Court Judge Sabrina R. Bell were in Indianapolis for a judicial conference last spring. They went bar-hopping the evening of April 30 into the early morning of May 1.
When they couldn’t get into a gentleman’s club at 3am because it was closed, they congregated in front of a White Castle while another colleague went inside to get food.
A car then drove by and the occupants shouted something at the judges. Bell gave them the middle finger, after which they jumped out of the car and engaged in a “heated verbal altercation” with the judges, the court said.
The judges never tried to de-escalate the situation or defuse it, according to the opinion.
The fight got physical, and Adams kicked one of the car’s occupants, Brandon Kaiser, in the back. The fight ended when Kaiser shot Adams and Jacobs.
Adams was indicted by a grand jury on several felony and misdemeanor counts of battery and ultimately pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of battery. He was suspended without pay and got two days jail time.
No criminal charges were filed against Jacobs or Bell.
The court said that the judges agree their conduct violated two canons of the Judicial Code of Conduct. Those canons require judges to act at all times in a manner that promotes confidence in the judiciary and prohibits them from taking part in extrajudicial activities that call into question their “integrity, independence, or impartiality.”
Adams also violated the section requiring judges to obey the law, the court said.
The judges’ "alcohol-fueled” behavior fell far short of these directives, said the court. But there were mitigating factors including a lack of prior disciplinary history for any of the judges, remorse for their behavior, and the fact that they sought counseling.
To deter future misconduct and preserve public confidence in the judiciary, the court suspended Adams without pay for 60 days and Jacobs and Bell without pay for for 30 days.
Unpaid suspensions of 30 days or longer “are among the most severe sanctions short of removal from office,” the court noted.
The case is In re Adams, Ind., No. 19S-JD-386, 11/12/19.