INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The state commission that oversees judicial conduct filed disciplinary charges Monday against a northern Indiana lawyer who’s also a part-time judge, accusing her of having an inappropriate relationship with a client while she was his public defender.
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications accused Logansport attorney Lisa Traylor-Wolff with engaging in “sexual relations” with a client, violating the rules of professional conduct of an attorney and of violating the code of judicial conduct that requires a judge to promote confidence in the integrity of the judiciary and to avoid impropriety.
Traylor-Wolff declined to comment on the charges.
The charges say Traylor-Wolff was appointed on Sept. 6, 2011, to be the public defender for a 26-year-old accused of burglary, robbery and felony confinement. The disciplinary charges don’t name the man, but give the initials S.W. and the case number. Court records indicate it is a man named Scott Wampler of Peru, who was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The disciplinary charges say Traylor-Wolff continued to represent Wampler as he appealed his conviction and developed a more personal relationship with him, giving him books, making cash deposits to his prison account, sending him personal emails and completing a Bible study with him.
The charges allege the two developed a romantic relationship in May 2012. The charges say she kissed Wampler three times at the Miami Correctional Facility, including once while sitting on his lap. The charges say Traylor-Wolff and Wampler met in a private attorney-client visitation room at the prison on June 15 and correctional officers observed them at the end of the meeting “engaged in excessive fondling with intent to sexually gratify over the clothing.”
The charges say that contact “meets the definition of ‘sexual relations’” as defined under the Indiana Rules of Professional Conduct. Wampler was written up for the incident and, following a hearing, was sanctioned with a loss of jail credit time, according to the charges.
Traylor-Wolff has 20 days to respond to respond to the charges. The Indiana Supreme Court will then appoint three masters to conduct a public hearing.
The Supreme Court has final authority over discipline. If she is found to have violated any court rules, Traylor-Wolff could face sanctions ranging from a reprimand to a permanent ban on holding a judicial office in Indiana.
Traylor-Wolf served as a judge in the Pulaski/Fulton county courts from 1991-93 and as Pulaski Superior Court judge from 1994-2000. In Indiana, senior judges work on a part-time basis filling-in for trial court judges and are allowed to have clients. Full-time judges are not.