Discipline charges filed against Adams County judge

Staff Writer

    The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed disciplinary charges against Adams County Superior Court Judge Patrick R. Miller March 12.
    The commission — made up of seven members who investigate alleged ethical misconduct by judges — alleges three counts of misconduct related to Miller’s actions in a legal dispute between Adams County Auditor Mary Beery and Adams County Drug Court Coordinator Kelly Sickafoose, related to Sickafoose’s employment status and payment of certain benefits.
    In the 28-page Notice of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and Statement of Charges filled in the Appellate Clerk’s office, the commission claims Miller abused the prestige of judicial office and attempted to influence Special Judge Thomas Hakes by sending him a letter on Adams County superior court letterhead regarding the case between Beery and Sicakfoose after Miller had disqualified himself from the matter. By engaging in this conduct, the commission claims Miller violated Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires a judge to “act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity, independence and impartiality of the judiciary, and to avoid impropriety and the appearance thereof.” It is also alleged that Miller violated Rule 1.3, which requires a judge to “not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal or economic interests of the judge or others.”
    In the second count, the commission charges that from March 1, 2017-Oct. 16, 2018, Miller improperly interjected himself into the legal dispute between Beery and Sickafoose by providing legal advice and offering legal strategies to Sickafoose and her attorney on a private legal claim. This again allegedly violates Rule 1.2; Rule 3.10 was allegedly violated as well, as it requires a judge to not practice law.
    In the third count, the commission alleges that on Oct. 27, 2017, Miller abused his authority when he acted on Sickafoose’s behalf on a private legal claim and gave the appearance to Adams County Attorney Mark Burry that he would pursue civil or criminal contempt charges against Beery, the Adams County Commissioners or the Adams County Council if county officials did not accept Miller’s settlement offer, in which the county was directed to pay Sickafoose a $20,000 settlement on her private legal claim. This allegedly violates Rule 1.1, which requires a judge “to respect and comply with the law, Rule 1.2 and Rule 1.3.”

See Saturday's edition of the Daily Democrat for the full story.