In the Matter of the Honorable Robert W. Freese, Judge of the Hendricks Superior Court 1, Respondent.
ATTORNEY FOR RESPONDENT James J. Bell Indianapolis, Indiana
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 Robert W. Freese, Judge of the
Hendricks Superior Court 1, engaged in judicial misconduct by
appointing an unqualified friend as trustee of a trust and
personal representative of a related estate, failing to
disclose the friendship or a financial relationship with the
friend, and failing to act promptly when faced with mounting
evidence of the friend's mismanagement and embezzlement
of the funds entrusted to him.
matter is before us on the Indiana Commission on Judicial
"Notice of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and
Statement of Charges" against Judge Freese. After the
filing of formal charges, the parties jointly tendered a
"Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement
for Discipline" stipulating to the following facts.
Freese has been judge of Hendricks Superior Court 1 since
2001, presiding over a docket that includes trust and estate
cases. He has known Stephen Scott since about 1990, having
worked with Scott in the county prosecutor's office,
where Scott supervised Adult Protective Services. (Scott had
also been a sheriff's deputy at the county jail.) Judge
Freese lunched regularly with Scott and considered him one of
his closest friends.
2004, Scott needed $122, 400 to buy a home but had poor
credit after a bankruptcy. Judge Freese used his line of
credit to lend Scott the funds. On January 13, 2005, they
executed and recorded a mortgage in that amount, and Scott
gave the Judge a promissory note.
days later, Judge Freese appointed Scott as trustee over the
Herbert Hochreiter Living Trust in Trust of Herbert
Hochreiter, No. 32D01-9710-TR-000003. None of the
parties objected, but the Judge never disclosed his financial
arrangement with Scott.
in 2005, Herbert Hochreiter died, and an estate was opened
with an estimated $2.3 million in real and personal property.
Judge Freese took the matter under advisement after a
hearing, and on October 24 appointed Scott as personal
representative of the Estate. As before, none of the parties
objected, nor did the Judge disclose his financial
arrangement with Scott.
trustee, Scott was required to provide an annual accounting
of trust property, including all receipts and disbursements.
Indiana Code § 30-4-5-12(a). Moreover, the court was
permitted "either on petition or on its own
motion" to "require the trustee to submit
such proof as it deems necessary to support the trustee's
verified written statement of accounts." I.C. §
30-4-5-13(b) (emphasis added). And though the Trust was
created as an unsupervised trust, its terms specifically
required annual reporting and accounting. Yet from 2006
through November 2009, Scott provided no annual accounting of
Scott as personal representative of the Estate was required
to file a verified account of administration "upon
filing a petition for final settlement," "upon the
revocation of his letters," "upon his application
to resign and before his resignation is accepted by the
court," and "at any other time when directed by the
court either of its own motion or on the
application of any interested person." I.C. §
29-1-16-3 (emphasis added).
12, 2007, when the Estate had been pending for nearly two
years, Judge Freese advised Scott a final report and
accounting was due. Scott requested a 180-day extension
(which the Judge granted) but still did not file a final
report and accounting. Continuing through 2009, Scott