On April 18, 2023, the Indiana Supreme Court reprimanded Timothy B. Day, Judge of Decatur Circuit Court in Indiana, for his unauthorized ex parte communications with attorneys representing the Department of Child Services (DCS).

The case is entitled “In the matter of Honorable Timothy B. Day” and was brought by the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications with case no. 22S-JD-412.

The charges cited Code of Judicial Conduct 1.1, 1.2, 2.9(a), 2.9(b) which states:

Failing to comply with the law, including the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Failing to act at all times in a manner that promotes confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and failing to avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety.

Initiating, permitting, or considering party communications or other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyers concerning a pending matter.

Failing to promptly notify the parties of unauthorized party communications inadvertently received by the judge and provide the parties with an opportunity to respond.

On December 16, 2022, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed formal charges against the respondent before the Supreme Court of Indiana. The respondent has presided over a general jurisdiction docket that includes child-in-need-of-services (CHINS), termination of parental rights, adoption, and guardianship cases. In 2020, the respondent repeatedly engaged in unauthorized ex parte communications with attorneys representing the Department of Child Services (DCS), to the exclusion of guardians ad litem, court-appointed special advocates, and unrepresented parties

The Complaint states:

“In one instance, Respondent received an ex parte communication from an attorney who frequently represents parents in CHINS cases, without notifying  DCS attorneys and other parties. Respondent also admitted during the Commission’s investigation that when represented parents would send him ex parte communications, he would shred them without reading them and without notifying the parties or providing them a chance to respond.”

The Complaint continues:

“Respondent did not appoint a GAL for R.P. in either of the two guardianship cases. Respondent excluded R.P.’s GAL in the CHINS matter from participation in all of the guardianship hearings, leaving R.P. without representation in the proceedings. In his April 20, 2022 deposition, Respondent offered that his reason for not appointing a GAL for R.P. in the guardianship proceedings was that: “I’m representing the best interests of that child, that is the overarching issue in guardianships, what is in the child’s best interests, and it was very squarely presented to me by all sides.”

The court accepted the parties’ agreement and reemphasized that the Code of Judicial Conduct requires that a judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications concerning a pending or imminent matter. Where an ex parte communication is for administrative, scheduling, or emergency purposes and substantive matters are not addressed, a judge may permit it, but only if the judge reasonably believes no party will gain an advantage from the communication, and promptly notifies other parties of the substance of the communication and gives those parties an opportunity to respond.

Based on these foregoing reasons, the court decided to reprimand the respondent.

The order states:

“Accordingly, Timothy B. Day, Judge of the Decatur Circuit Court, is hereby reprimanded for his judicial misconduct. This discipline terminates the disciplinary proceedings relating to the circumstances giving rise to this cause. The special masters are discharged with the Court’s appreciation.”

Judge Day earned a law degree from Indiana University’s School of Law.

The Judge’s courtroom is located at 253 E Wood St. in Decatur and can be reached at 1 217 425 7098. His bio can be found on ballotpedia.com.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.