The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has filed disciplinary charges against Lisa Traylor-Wolff, a senior judge serving in Pulaski and Fulton Counties and a public defender in Cass County. The charges stem from allegations that Judge Traylor-Wolff had an inappropriate relationship with a criminal defendant she represented, according to a press release from the Indiana Supreme Court.
The charges are filed in the Appellate Clerk’s Office in Indianapolis by the Commission on Judicial Qualifications. The Commission charges that Judge Traylor-Wolff violated the Code of Conduct. The charges are allegations — only the five members of the Supreme Court can determine what, if any, allegations are true.
The commission is alleging Judge Traylor-Wolff violated conduct standards that apply to all judges, including senior judges. Senior judges work on a part-time basis filling-in for trial court judges. These part-time judges, who are attorneys, are also permitted to represent clients. Full-time judges are not allowed to represent anyone in court. The charges against Judge Traylor-Wolff stem from allegations she committed misconduct while representing a client, not while serving as a judge. The Commission has jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute claims against senior judges.
The charges center on allegations that Judge Traylor-Wolff had a physically intimate relationship with a 26-year-old client that she represented. Traylor-Wolff was appointed to represent a defendant on felony charges. The defendant was eventually convicted and sentenced to the Department of Correction. Traylor-Wolff continued representing the client on appeal. The commission alleges she began a romantic relationship with the client while representing him. The Commission also alleges inappropriate conduct occurred when Traylor-Wolff and the client were in an attorney-client visitation room at the Miami Correctional Facility.
Traylor-Wolff, who did not ask to be recertified as a senior judge in 2013, faces a total of three charges of violating the Code of Judicial Conduct, including the following allegations:
Count 1: Judge Traylor-Wolff violated Rule 1.8(j) of the Rules of Professional Conduct which prohibits a lawyer from having sexual relations with a client.
Count 2: Judge Traylor-Wolff violated Rule 1.7(a)(2) of theRules of Professional Conduct which prohibit a lawyer from representing a client if there is a significant risk that the representation will be materially limited by a personal interest of the lawyer.
Count 3: Judge Traylor-Wolff violated Rule 1.2 of the Code of Judicial Conduct which requires a judge to promote confidence in the integrity of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety. The Commission also alleges she violated Rule 3.1(C) of the Code of Judicial Conduct which prohibits judges from engaging in activities that would appear to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity, or impartiality.
Judge Traylor-Wolff has the opportunity to file what is called an “Answer” to the charges. That Answer must be filed with the Appellate Clerk within twenty days of receiving notice of the charges. After the Answer is filed, or when twenty days has passed, the Indiana Supreme Court will appoint three Masters to conduct a public hearing.
The Commission on Judicial Qualifications is the seven member group that investigates alleged ethical misconduct by judges. The Indiana Supreme Court has final authority over judicial discipline. The Court can dismiss the charges against Judge Traylor-Wolff or it can impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a permanent ban on holding a judicial office in Indiana.
To find out who the defendant was and details of their alleged relationship, pick up Tuesday’s Pharos-Tribune.