VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Vigo County Division 5 Judge Matthew Sheehan has been found to be in contempt of court, according to documents obtained by mywabashvalley.com filed in Owen County.
Judge Sheehan allegedly failed to comply with court orders regarding payment of expenses and child support in an ongoing divorce case. Numerous expenses were underpaid, not paid on time or not paid at all, the documents stated.
Indiana University law professor Charles Geyh said this order is not to be taken lightly.
“There are judges in other places who when they refuse to follow court orders, they’re subject to removal,” Geyh said. “It’s serious business because the integrity and the legitimacy of the courts depends upon people abiding by court orders, and if the judge himself isn’t abiding by court orders, it’s a serious problem.”
The court order references a 30-day window for Sheehan to “true up all expenses” and mentions that “imposition of a sanction” will be taken under advisement pending his compliance.
Geyh explained the disciplinary process associated with judicial or lawyer misconduct, also known as Rule 2.15 in the Indiana Code of Judicial Conduct.
“There is a disciplinary process, and it begins with the filing of a complaint and just about anybody can file a complaint,” Geyh explained. “It can be the judge himself who’s issued the contempt order. It can be the parties, it can be a public citizen, it can be a reporter. The complaint goes to a disciplinary commission that gives it a quick look to see if there’s any there, there. I think in a situation like this, it’s hard to imagine they wouldn’t think there was. It then goes into an inquiry where they talk to the judge who’s been subject to the contempt order, you know, try to figure out what’s going on, and if they see there’s more to it, they will undertake a full investigation that can culminate in a hearing.”
Geyh went on to say if a violation of code of conduct has been found, a proposed sanction could be put in place.
“The proposed sanction could run the gamut from a private reprimand to a public reprimand to a suspension for a period of time to removal,” Geyh said. “And the final stage would be it then goes to the Supreme Court of the state which determines, the Supreme Court will determine what, whether a sanction should be imposed and what that sanction will be.”
Geyh clarified an investigation could reveal nothing, and that there is a process behind-the-scenes that must reach a threshold before this is public information given about the case.
Vigo County’s Chief Judge Chris Newton was unable to comment on the ongoing matter.
Mywabashvalley.com reached out to Judge Sheehan for comment on Thursday and again on Friday, and is awaiting a response.