The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has filed disciplinary charges against St. Joseph Probate Court Judge Jason A. Cichowicz. The Commission alleges seven counts of misconduct in his role as an attorney and later as a judge related to a conflict of interest and improper dealing with a charitable trust. Judge Cichowicz is permitted (but not required) to file an answer to the charges within 20 days.
The “Notice of the Institution of Formal Proceedings and Statement of Charges” (Case No. 23S-JD-33) is public record and has been filed with the Appellate Clerk’s Office. The charges are brought by the seven-member Commission, which investigates alleged ethical misconduct by judges.
The Commission charges in two counts that when Judge Cichowicz was an attorney, he violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by having a conflict of interest while representing a client. Of the remaining five counts, the Commission charges that, after Cichowicz was elected judge, he violated judicial canons that require judges to respect the law, avoid impropriety, promote public confidence in the judiciary, and avoid abusing the prestige of judicial office to advance the private interests of another.
Generally, the Commission alleges that Cichowicz improperly continued his fiduciary relationship after becoming a judge. The Commission charges that he engaged in misconduct by using his role as the trustee of a charitable organization to donate funds to the courts for improvements. The funds were donated in a way that the public would not be able to determine the source, and the judge’s father’s business made some of the improvements.
The Supreme Court has final authority to determine what, if any, judicial misconduct occurred. The Court can dismiss the charges, accept or reject a disciplinary agreement between the Commission and Judge Cichowicz, appoint a panel of judges to conduct a public hearing, impose a fine, or impose sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a suspension to a permanent ban on holding judicial office in Indiana. More information about the Commission can be found at courts.in.gov/jqc.