ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. (WSBT) — From 2021-to-2022, the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications received 609 complaints for judges across the state.
Of those, it followed up on 115.
The commission could not share how many complaints they received about Judge Jason Cichowicz, but it launched an investigation; and is asking for action from the state Supreme Court.
Judge Jason Cichowicz is facing 5 counts of misconduct as a judge and 2 counts as a lawyer.
The charges claim conflict of interest while Cichowicz was a lawyer representing a man named Russell Cartwright, while also being a beneficiary on Cartwright's trusts and bank accounts.
As a judge, Cichowicz allegedly still held Cartwright's power of attorney. And is suspected of 'obscuring' sources of funding from Cartwright's foundation to renovate the JJC, allegedly using some of that money to benefit Cichowicz's father's businesses.
“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,” according to Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications.
According to the documents, that included an additional courtroom, remodeled breakrooms, and three automobiles to be used by the Court Appointed Special Advocates Program.
Cichowicz's lawyer said he legally used private funds at no cost to taxpayers and no benefit to himself.
“The Commission’s own statement of charges correctly asserts that Judge Cichowicz’s interest was in making improvements that would be beneficial to the important work of the St. Joseph Probate Court and the families and children it serves,” said Donald Lundberg, Judge Cichowicz’s Lawyer.
Cartwright's lawyer said he is standing by Cichowicz 100% and considers him a family member.
“Mr. Cartwright has always maintained that all actions taken by Cichowicz on behalf of Mr. Cartwright were of his own choosing and also in the best interest of our community and the children and families served by the JJC,” said Michael Misch, Cartwright’s Lawyer.
Judge Cichowicz has 20 days to respond to the complaint.
A judge that is found to commit misconduct could face fines, sanctions, suspensions, or a permanent ban from judicial office in Indiana.
A St. Joseph County judge is facing several disciplinary charges from the state.
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications is alleging seven counts of misconduct against Probate Court Judge Jason Cichowicz.
Two of the counts are from when Cichowicz was an attorney, alleging a conflict of interest while he was representing a client.
The other five are after he was elected judge.
The Commission says Cichowicz violated his oath by misusing funds in his role as a trustee in a charitable organization.
He has 20 days to file an answer to the charges against him.
Cichowicz was elected to St. Joseph County Court in 2019.