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Judge Gets Lifetime Ban|for Bad Calls and Slur

(CN) - An Indiana judge who used a racial slur at her ex's new girlfriend, among other offenses, is banned from future judicial service, the state Supreme Court ruled.

The Feb. 10 opinion notes that the former Muncie City Court judge in question, Dianna Bennington, had agreed to the punishment after she was formerly charged by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

Bennington stepped tendering her resignation to Gov. Mike Pence late last month, but she can retain her license to practice law in the state, the court ruled.

The eight-page decision describes a litany of Bennington's injudicious behavior outside the courtroom and her misuse of judicial authority.

In one instance, Bennington used Facebook to publicly roast J.W., the father of twins she gave birth to in May 2013, on child support, the court noted.

It said Bennington had commented on a Facebook photo of J.W. and his girlfriend: "Must be nice to take such an expensive trip but not pay your bills. Just sayin'."

J.W. had court-sanctioned visitation with the twins on Aug. 19, but when he went to pick up the children from day care he endured a 15-to-20-minute tirade from Bennington, according to the ruling.

Other parents and day care employees observed Bennington's "disruptive conduct," which included "various derogatory comments" about J.W., the unsigned decision continues.

One month later, Bennington followed J.W. to his girlfriend's home and yelled at them both, the court said. She referred to the girlfriend, who is black, using a racial slur.

The court also described various misdeeds by Bennington in the courtroom

While sentencing John Ewing for animal cruelty in November 2013, Bennington jailed him for contempt after she was dissatisfied with his answers about other dogs under his control.

The judge did not tell Ewing when he would be released, nor did she appoint a lawyer for him or tell him he had the right to appeal, the court said.

Two months later, Curtis Westbrook distributed a letter in the judge's courtroom that complained about so-called "One Term Bennington."

When Westbrook appeared in court the next day for his son's hearing, he was arrested for contempt and jailed for 10 days.

The Indiana Supreme Court justices noted that Bennington did not "bring Westbrook before her to inform him of the alleged nature of his contempt or otherwise provide him with an opportunity to explain, apologize or give information about his allegedly contemptuous act(s)."

Bennington also sent Jonathan Proctor to jail for one night when he failed to comply with his sentence for illegal tobacco possession, though the maximum penalty for such a violation is a $500 fine.

Another claim against Bennington concerned her having held Ewing's sentencing hearing without the prosecutor present, in violation of proper procedures.

Bennington agreed with the state commission that she engaged in this conduct and that she failed to cooperate with its investigation.

The Indiana Supreme Court ruled that Bennington cannot serve in any judicial capacity such as a private or temporary judge.

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