Discipline charges filed against St. Joseph County judge

ST. JOSEPH COUNTY, Ind. - The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications filed disciplinary charges against a St. Joseph Probate Court judge, citing numerous instances of misconduct as an attorney and as a judge.

The charges focus on a conflict of interest and improper dealing with a charitable trust by Judge Jason A. Cichowicz, according to the commission.

Two of the seven counts brought on by the commission stem from when Cichowicz was an attorney and allegedly violated the Rules of Professional Conduct by having a conflict of interest while representing a client.

According to reports, Cichowicz was attorney and power of attorney for a man whom he later became a beneficiary of. Cichowicz also allegedly lent money to the man and received an interest in the man's real estate.

The other five counts allege that, after Cichowicz was elected judge, he violated judicial canons by using his role as the trustee of a charitable organization to donate money to the courts for improvements, reports said.

Cichowicz was the trustee of a chartable organization connected to the man identified in the first two charges, according to reports.

The money was donated in a way that the public could not determine the source, and Cichowicz's father's business made some of the improvements, according to the commission.

The Indiana Supreme Court will determine if any misconduct took place and what, if any, disciplinary measures should be taken.

Michael Misch, attorney for the man Cichowicz was previously an attorney for, sent the following statement to ABC57 News:

Mr. Cartwright was shocked to learn that this investigation was taking place and that charges were being considered, as the majority of the issues presented involve Mr. Cartwright who has never complained about his relationship with then Attorney Cichowicz or now Judge Cichowicz. Mr. Cartwright has always held Judge Cichowicz in the highest regard and regards him as 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. It says a lot that Mr. Cartwright is the alleged victim in this case, yet none of the accusers have once sat down with him or asked his opinion. He has repeatedly rejected the notion that Judge Cichowicz has done anything wrong and stands by him 100%.

Cichowicz's lawyer sent ABC57 News the following statement:

Judge Jason Cichowicz successfully and legally obtained private funds to improve his court at no cost to the taxpayer and at no personal 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. Judge Cichowicz fully cooperated with the Judicial Qualifications Commission’s investigation that took well over a year. He is disappointed that his long-standing and close friendship with Russell Cartwright, who never complained to the Judicial Qualifications Commission, would be subject to criticism. The Judge looks forward to presenting his side of the case to a panel of three independent judges who will decide whether the Commission’s or his and his lawyers’ interpretation of the Code of Judicial Conduct is correct.

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