The three judges involved in a night of heavy drinking that led to two of them being shot in downtown Indianapolis each have been suspended from their southern Indiana benches.
Clark Circuit Court 1 Judge Andrew Adams, who has been off the bench since June, was suspended 60 days without pay effectively immediately, per a Tuesday order by the Indiana Supreme Court. He will return to the bench in January.
Clark Circuit Court 2 Judge Bradley Jacobs and Crawford Circuit Court Judge Sabrina Bell each will serve a 30-day suspension without pay beginning at 12:01 a.m. Friday, Nov. 22.
Adams, Bell and Jacobs were in Indianapolis on May 1 for Indiana’s Spring Judicial Conference. After a night of bar hopping, the trio ended up outside a downtown White Castle restaurant on South Street, where a fight broke out between the two male judges and two local men, Brandon Kaiser and Alfredo Vazquez.
According to court filings, Kaiser eventually pulled a gun and shot both Clark County judges, critically injuring Jacobs. Bell was not involved in the fight, but court filings say she incited the incident by giving Kaiser and Vazquez the finger and verbally provoking the men.
Adams, Vazquez and Kaiser were all criminally charged. Adams and Vazquez each pleaded guilty to battery earlier this year.
Adams has been suspended from the bench since his June indictment.
“We find the Respondents … engaged in judicial misconduct by appearing in public in an intoxicated state and behaving in an injudicious manner and by becoming involved in a verbal altercation,” the Indiana Supreme Court wrote. “We also finds that Judge Adams and Judge Jacobs engaged in judicial misconduct by becoming involved in a physical altercation for which Judge Adams was criminally charged and convicted.
“Respondents’ actions were not merely embarrassing on a personal level; they discredited the entire Indiana judiciary,” the court wrote.
For his criminal conviction, Adams agreed to violating Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 1.1, “which requires a judge to respect and comply with the law.” Also, all three judges agreed to violating Rules 1.2 and 3.1(C) of the Code of Judicial Conduct.
“The effectiveness of the judiciary ultimately rests on the trust and confidence that citizens confer on judges,” the justices wrote. “Judges, therefore, must remain vigilant to guard against any actions that erode that public trust.
“Respondents’ alcohol-fueled actions during the early morning hours of May 1, 2019, fell far short of the Code’s directive to ‘aspire at all times to conduct that ensures the greatest possible public confidence in their independence, impartiality, integrity, and competence.’”
Noting that the judges have acknowledged the effect their misconduct had on public perceptions of the judiciary, the justices found several mitigating factors. Those included their lack of prior disciplinary history and remorse, their contact with the Judges & Lawyers Assistance Program and counselors, and Adams’ and Jacobs’ leadership and cooperation with the JQC, among others.
“’A suspension from office without pay, regardless of duration, is not a minor sanction. Even more than a public reprimand, any such suspension is a significant blemish on a sitting judge’s reputation,’” the justices wrote. “… Unpaid suspensions of 30 days or longer, then, are among the most severe sanctions short of removal from office. … We agree that these suspensions are warranted in light of Respondents’ misconduct.”