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Supreme Court polices judge-race charges

Action the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications took this week might raise some free-speech questions, but voters tired of endless campaign allegations might find it refreshing.

The commission filed disciplinary charges against an attorney running for Franklin Circuit Court judge. The commission accused Tammy Davis of making misleading statements about the incumbent, Judge Steven Cox.

Davis accused the judge of releasing an inmate earlier than he should have, and the man he released went on to commit crimes that wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been released early. However, Davis’ explanation of the timing of the release was wrong. Further, Davis also claimed the inmate was a childhood friend of the judge, but there is no evidence to support that accusation.

Worst of all, the commission alleges Davis knew her statements were inaccurate.

While Mitt Romney and President Obama can trade misleading, mean-spirited and even outright false allegations, it’s different for attorneys and would-be judges, who must follow codes of conduct. And in recent years, the Indiana Supreme Court has cracked down on attorneys who violate those codes.

The judicial commission has filed seven charges against Davis, accusing her of knowingly making misleading statements and committing actions that compromise “the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.”

The state Supreme Court will appoint a three-person panel to conduct a public hearing on the allegations, which will almost certainly come after the election.

Lake County 911 dispatch headaches

If you think combining the Fort Wayne and Allen County emergency dispatch operations was difficult, consider the challenge facing public safety officials in Lake County.

The northwest Indiana county is already known for its ongoing political battles and more than its share of corruption. But even if everything in Lake County ran smoothly and honestly, this consolidation would still be a big challenge.

With its numerous municipalities, Lake County faces the task of combining not two, not five, not even 10, but 18 separate 911 dispatch centers.

The turf battles have already started.

One county commissioner wants the consolidated center to be in Crown Point. East Chicago’s mayor wants the center in – yes, you guessed it – East Chicago.

A group of police chiefs recommended two centers, one in East Chicago, the other in Hobart.

And don’t underestimate the ability of politicians in Gary or Merrillville to score a last-minute victory.

The exercise is more than academic or even a good-government effort to achieve greater efficiency. A state law requires that each county have no more than two dispatch centers in operation by the end of 2014.

Lake County will probably need about that long to make it work.

Canned deer-hunting crisis

An unusual plea to Hoosier hunters from the state Department of Natural Resources demonstrates a danger of canned-hunting operations in Indiana.

Last week the DNR asked hunters in Jackson, Bartholomew, Jennings and Scott counties to be on the lookout for deer with yellow ear tags and to kill them if possible. Earlier this year, farm-raised deer that were sold to a high-fenced hunting operation in Jackson County escaped, and there is a chance the escaped deer were exposed to a confirmed case of chronic wasting disease.

“This is serious stuff. It could jeopardize our Indiana wild whitetail herd, and this is exactly what we have been fearing,” wrote Gene Hopkins, president of the Indiana Sportsmen’s Roundtable, in an email.

The escape is the nightmare scenario opponents of canned hunting foretold when testifying against these operations. Earlier this year some state lawmakers were pushing legislation not only to grandfather in four existing captive hunting businesses but encourage the growth of the heinous practice of high-fenced hunting.