Batesville Herald Tribune, Batesville, Indiana

May 24, 2013

Local judicial candidate disciplined by Indiana Supreme Court

Debbie Blank
The Herald-Tribune

— The Indiana Supreme Court, Indianapolis, has barred Tammy Davis, the Democratic candidate for judge of the Franklin Circuit Court last November, from seeking judicial office for five years and publicly reprimanded her, according to an order signed by Chief Justice Brent Dickson and filed May 7.

The court took the middle road in its discipline of the attorney.

Kathryn Dolan, Indiana Supreme Court public information officer, explained after the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed disciplinary charges against the Brookville woman Oct. 26, 2012, just 12 days before the election, “The court can dismiss the charges against Davis or it can impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a permanent ban on holding a judicial office in Indiana.”

Davis also is required to pay the proceeding’s costs, the order noted.

The document explained that the commission, a seven-member group that investigates possible ethical misconduct by judges and candidates for judicial office, filed a seven-count Notice of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and Statement of Charges alleging that Davis “made several false, misleading and/or inappropriate statements during her campaign about the character and conduct of the incumbent, Judge J. Steven Cox, in violation of the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.” Davis filed her legal answer Nov. 15, 2012.

On April 3, Davis and ICJQ submitted a Statement of Circumstances and Conditional Agreement for Discipline to the Indiana Supreme Court and suggested the punishment to which the court agreed. The two parties confirmed that Davis had violated Code of Judicial Conduct Rule 4.2(A)(1), which states, “A judicial candidate ... small ... act at all times in a manner consistent with the independence, integrity and impartiality of the judiciary ...”

Davis’ conduct that led to the discipline was detailed in the order and centered around David Ison, now 47, Glenwood, who pled guilty to killing Roy and Angie Napier, two of their children and a neighbor Sept. 25, 2011, at 24015 Stipps Hill Road, Laurel. He was sentenced by Cox to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole March 14, 2012:

• In a July 11, 2012, Brookville Democrat article, Davis stated Cox had ordered Ison’s prison sentence for earlier crimes to be modified because the pair had been “‘boyhood friends.’ In actuality, Judge Cox and Ison had not been boyhood friends, and respondent did not believe they had been. She did not, however, request a retraction of the statement attributed to her or otherwise publicly correct the reporter’s misstatement,” the document noted.

• Davis authorized the campaign committee to post a statement on her campaign Web site July 9-25, 2012. It read, in part, “a man found guilty of more than 20 offenses as an adult, most of them violent felonies, had Steve Cox order his immediate release without a motion from the defendant. David Ison must have enjoyed avoiding attorney fees while Steve Cox worked for him for free.”

• “In July and early August 2012, respondent authorized campaign advertisements disseminated in local newspapers indicating that Ison would have been in prison in February 2011, rather than committing crimes in Ohio, if Judge Cox had not ordered Ison released in July 2010 on probation. On Aug. 14, 2012, commission staff informed respondent that an ethical complaint had been lodged against her (by Cox) ...

“Commission staff also provided respondent with a letter written by the Department of Correction’s general counsel indicating that Ison would have been released in September 2010 (more than four months before Ison committed his Ohio crimes) had Ison not been released” earlier.

On Aug. 27, 2012, ICJQ asked Davis to make a public retraction of the inaccurate statements. Instead, she continued to post. The order stated, “The respondent and the commission agree that by posting such misinformation on her Web site after she had been made aware of its inaccuracy, respondent left her Web site visitors with the incorrect impression that Ison could not have committed his crimes but for Judge Cox’s conduct.”

After considering the settlement agreement, the court dismissed three of the seven counts and accepted an amended count before deciding on the discipline.