In the Matter of the Honorable Ryan D. Johanningsmeier, Judge of the Knox Superior Court 2, Respondent.
ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT Patrick J. Olmstead Greenwood,
ATTORNEYS FOR INDIANA COMMISSION ON JUDICIAL QUALIFICATIONS
Adrienne L. Meiring, Counsel to the Commission Marcus McGhee,
Staff Attorney to the Commission Indianapolis, Indiana
that Respondent, the Honorable Ryan D. Johanningsmeier, Judge
of the Knox Superior Court 2, engaged in judicial misconduct
by his actions in, and failure to recuse from, a close
friend's traffic-infraction case.
matter is before us on the Indiana Commission on Judicial
"Notice of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and
Statement of Charges" against Judge Johanningsmeier.
Together with the filing of formal charges, the parties
jointly tendered a "Statement of Circumstances and
Conditional Agreement for Discipline" stipulating to the
Johanningsmeier has been judge of Knox Superior Court 2 since
January 2015. He is close friends with B.K., who received a
speeding ticket in April 2015.
18, 2015-shortly after vacationing with Judge Johanningsmeier
-B.K. failed to appear in Bicknell City Court on the ticket,
so default judgment was entered and his license was suspended
for failure to appear. On June 30, 2015, B.K. filed a
petition for a trial de novo in Judge Johanningsmeier's
court. Judge Johanningsmeier granted the motion the same day
and reinstated B.K.'s license, without giving the
prosecutor opportunity to respond (thus violating Trial De
Novo Rule 2(E)) or disclosing the conflict.
situation came to the Commission's attention and resulted
in a March 9, 2016 private caution letter advising Judge
Johanningsmeier that his close friendship with B.K. would
cause a reasonable person to question his impartiality under
Indiana Judicial Conduct Rule 2.11(A). Despite the caution,
Judge Johanningsmeier did not recuse and did not set the
matter for hearing. The case remained in limbo until early
shortly before Christmas 2016 and while the case was still
pending, Judge Johanningsmeier posted on Facebook a photo of
himself, his sister, and B.K. at a party in the Judge's
home. The photo, which B.K. "liked," was visible to
the public and showed that Judge Johanningsmeier and B.K.
were close friends.
March 6, 2017-almost a year after Judge Johanningsmeier's
private caution letter-the prosecutor moved for bench trial
in B.K.'s case. Instead of recusing, Judge
Johanningsmeier set the motion for hearing on March 20, 2017.
At the hearing, he stated on the record that the case
involved "a friend of mine" and "I was hoping
we could just get the State to dismiss it." The
prosecutor immediately orally moved to dismiss the case, and
Judge Johanningsmeier granted the motion.
Commission charges, and Judge Johanningsmeier agrees, that
his conduct violated six provisions ...