SOUTH BEND—A long-serving St. Joseph County probate judge is accused of misconduct on the bench in connection with alleged remarks made to a woman in a guardianship hearing for a deaf teenager last year.
The Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications has filed one count of misconduct against St. Joseph Probate Court Judge Peter Nemeth, it announced Tuesday.
Nemeth has served as the county's probate judge since 1993 and is retiring at the end of this year.
The commission's complaint alleges that Nemeth made inappropriate comments to a woman in court as a potential guardian for a deaf 18-year-old when she asked for a court-provided interpreter for the teenager.
The commission said Nemeth first denied her request to supply a sign language interpreter for the woman, and instead ordered her to provide one herself.
He later appointed one when the woman referenced portions of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the complaint said.
During the May guardianship hearing, the woman testified she had not worked or paid taxes in the past 10 years, the commission said.
The commission alleges Nemeth later suggested to the woman she should not have asked the court to pay for an interpreter when she had not paid taxes for years.
Nemeth on Tuesday said he will fight the charge against him.
"I certainly deny that I acted inappropriately," he said.
He did not discuss the case in detail, saying he will respond to the allegations in court.
Nemeth has 20 days to answer the charge. The Indiana Supreme Court will then hold a public hearing to either dismiss the charge or levy a sanction that could range from a reprimand to a ban on holding judicial office in the state.
The judge, who has also served as South Bend mayor and on the city council, announced his retirement earlier this year.
"I guess it's their way of saying goodbye and don't let the door hit you on the way out," Nemeth said.
Staff writer Madeline Buckley: