State commission seeks suspension of Muncie judge

(WTHI Photo, file)

MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — A state commission on Monday requested the immediate suspension of a Muncie city court judge who faces misconduct allegations including abuse of judicial power.

The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications asked for the state Supreme Court to suspend Judge Dianna Bennington with pay.

The commission’s request said that Bennington has been on a voluntary leave of absence since late September but hasn’t responded to the commission’s subpoenas or communicated with other Delaware County judges about whether she intends to return to the bench.

Commission attorneys wrote that the suspension request was merited because Bennington “has engaged in a continuing course of conduct which has brought disrepute to the judiciary and cast significant doubt on (Bennington’s) ability to adjudicate cases fairly and impartially.”

The Associated Press left a telephone message Monday with the city court office seeking comment from Bennington, a Democrat elected as city judge in 2011.

The judicial commission filed 13 disciplinary charges against Bennington last week. Those include charges that she had public confrontations with the father of her children and referred to his girlfriend with a racial slur.

Another charge is that she abused judicial power by sentencing a defendant to jail without any indication of when he would be released and conducting a sentencing hearing without a prosecutor present.

Bennington has 20 days from the filing of those charges to file a response.

A Supreme Court spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to a message Monday about whether the court had a timeline for making a decision on the request to suspend Bennington.

The Muncie City Court handles about 8,000 criminal misdemeanor and traffic infraction cases a year, according to the judicial commission.

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