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In re Gardner

Supreme Court of Indiana

April 3, 2014

In the Matter of: Deborah A. Riga GARDNER, Respondent

Brent E. Dickson, Chief Justice of Indiana.

OPINION

Brent E. Dickson Chief Justice.

PUBLISHED ORDER APPROVING STATEMENT OF CIRCUMSTANCES AND CONDITIONAL AGREEMENT FOR DISCIPLINE

Pursuant to Indiana Admission and Discipline Rule 23(11), the Indiana Supreme Court Disciplinary Commission and Respondent have submitted for approval a " Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline" stipulating agreed facts and proposed discipline as summarized below:

Stipulated Facts:

From January 2000 to December 2003, Respondent served as Schererville Town Court Judge, where she heard cases involving traffic, minor drug and alcohol offenses, and small claims.

Driving Classes.

In general, defendants charged with first-time traffic offenses could have their prosecution deferred if they took a defensive driving course. From January 2000 until October 2001, the driving courses were offered in Respondent's courtroom one Saturday each month, and each participant was required to pay a $25 fee to the driving school and a $114 fee to the Town of Schererville (" Town" ). The driving school paid rent of $250 to the Town for each class held in the courtroom. Profits from the driving school went to the owner of the driving school.

In October 2001, Respondent created her own business called Diversified Educational Services (" DES" ) which offered the defensive driving courses. Respondent's father contracted with W.S.[1] to open a checking account in the name of DES, which Respondent and her father controlled. Respondent directed that the fees collected from defendants that she ordered to attend the driving school be deposited into the DES account. Between November 2001 and December 2003, people attending DES driving school paid fees totaling $29,600. W.S. was shown as the sole owner of the account to conceal Respondent's financial interest in DES. Respondent paid W.S. $3,800 from the DES account for his cooperation. Respondent did not disclose her financial interest in DES to the Town or to defendants charged with traffic offenses in her court.

In December 2001, Respondent stopped paying rent to the Town for DES's use of the courtroom for the driving classes. Between December 2001 and December 2003, DES conducted sixteen driving school classes for which no rent was paid to the Town.

Counseling Program.

In general, young adults who were charged in the Schererville Town Court for the first time with minor alcohol or marijuana offenses were ordered by Respondent to participate in a counseling session called " Crossroads."

Page 1164

When the defendants completed the counseling and supervision requirements, the ...


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