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Disciplinary charges filed against St. Joseph County Probate Court judge

The golden scales of justice. (Photo by Narcis Grigore/Getty Images)

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WISH) — Disciplinary charges have been filed against the St. Joseph County Probate Court judge, according to the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications.

Jason Cichowicz faces seven counts of misconduct in his role as an attorney and later as a judge, all related to “a conflict of interest and improper dealings with a charitable trust,” the commission said in a statement Tuesday.

Two of the counts stem from Cichowicz’s time as an attorney in South Bend. Cichowicz practiced law in South Bend from 2013 through 2018 prior to becoming Probate Court Judge in Jan. 2019.

According to the disciplinary commission, Cichowicz had a conflict of interest “when he mixed his role as attorney for Levering Russell Cartwright with his roles as power of attorney for Cartwright and later beneficiary of Cartwright’s various trusts and bank accounts.”

The commission says Cartwright also engaged in an “improper business transaction” with Cartwright by lending him money and receiving an interest in his estate.

“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,” the commission said.

Cichowicz is accused of violating Rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct by continuing to serve as power of attorney for Cartwright after being elected judge in January 2019.

The commission also says he used his role as trustee of the Cartwright Foundation to donate money to the courts for improvements, but the funds were donated in such a way that the public wouldn’t be able to determine the source. He is also accused of using his father’s business to make “some of the improvements.”

The judge has 20 days to formally respond to the allegations. The Indiana Supreme Court will determine what, if any, action will be taken.