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Monday, May 2, 2016

Bridges terminated as public defender

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

A local attorney has been relieved of his duties as a part-time public defender.

In a letter dated Friday, Putnam Superior Court Judge Robert J. Lowe said he was terminating Charles Bridges' employment as a public defender effective at close of business that day.

"This is not due to any lack of performance of your duties, but is necessitated by the fact that your spouse has commenced employment with the Putnam County Prosecutor's Office this past Monday," Lowe wrote. "I believe that your continued employment as public defender simultaneous with your wife's employment creates a real and substantial risk of the appearance of impropriety and will undermine public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the judicial system in Putnam County."

Bridges holds no ill will toward Lowe.

"Rules that govern judges are exceedingly strict," he said. "One of the canons in the (Indiana Rules of Court) Code of Judicial Conduct says a judge has to insure against even the appearance of impropriety," Bridges said. "(Lowe) certainly didn't do anything that wasn't within his right or authority."

Bridges' wife, Tracy, is employed by the Putnam County Prosecutor's Office as a victim's assistance coordinator. The job is largely administrative, and Putnam County Prosecutor Tim Bookwalter said the person who had the job before Tracy Bridges "never went to court or testified" in any case.

Bridges said he asked Lowe what the exact conflict of interest would be.

"He couldn't tell me," Bridges said. "He just had a gut feeling and couldn't articulate it."

Lowe said in his letter he had been given no advance notice that Bridges' wife would be taking a job in the prosecutor's office. If he had been apprised, he said, he would have told Bridges what the outcome would be. He also said Bridges should not be surprised by Lowe's action, as "I just recently discussed with you how I view these situations when your wife applied for or inquired about positions with the Putnam County Probation Office and Putnam County Community Corrections."

"This is not to case any blame for what has occurred," Lowe wrote. "I understand that you have no control over your wife or the prosecutor. Of course, neither do I, but I do still have my obligations under the Code, and this is the only option available to me."

Under Indiana Code, Lowe has final say over who is hired to be a public defender in his court.

Lowe acknowledged Bookwalter had offered to make sure Bridges' wife did not deal with any cases Bridges would handle. However, Lowe said in his letter, copies of which were sent to Judge Matthew Headley, Bookwalter, the staff of Putnam Superior Court, the other Putnam County public defenders and the Putnam County Bar Association, that he didn't believe such a concession would "change the problem presented by the appearance to the public, even is it is believed that it is really possible to accomplish that in such an office."

Bookwalter said he did not perceive Bridges holding the public defender's position while Bridges' wife was working in Bookwalter's office as a conflict.

"My understanding was that (Bridges) had gotten it approved by the state ethics commission," he said. "To me, that cleared it. I guess Judge Lowe disagrees with the judicial qualification commission."

Meg Babcock, counsel to the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications, said she had spoken to Bridges, and that she didn't "understand what the conflict of interest" Lowe spoke of might be.

"But it's not my call," she said.

Lowe said the purpose of sending the copies of the letter to the people and offices he did was two-fold -- it was sent to inform people Bridges had been let go as a public defender and to put out a call to individuals who might be interested in taking his place.

"As there has been no opportunity to plan for this turn of events, there is a danger of disruption to services being provided to indigent criminal defendants, and a further resulting danger of an increased backlog generally," Lowe wrote.

Bridges hopes those things don't happen.

"If anyone were to have to spend one day longer in jail than they had to, I have a problem with that," he said.

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For a moment, I thought I was reading a story from the Cloverdale town council. However, I'm not surprised by Lowe making such a move.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 4:50 AM

Hey Lowe don't forget you put your pants on like everyone else does in the morning. Sounds like a power trip to me, especially since Bridges will be taking your job next year! I think it was Lowe's last case of I am still the boss, and its because I said so...

-- Posted by nascar_Couple on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 5:42 AM

So what does this do to Bridges when he is judge next year? I for one am having a hard time understanding the conflict here.

-- Posted by CougarsFan on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 6:49 AM

I think it's great that Judge Lowe took a stand, if you don't see the conflict, it's because you don't want to.

-- Posted by beachbum on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 7:10 AM

I really don't see the problem with this issue either way. I personally had a small claims I filed in the Court and by the time the Judge was done with who worked where, who knew who, and who was related I had to have my case in Vigo County. So I guess either way someone knows someone and nothing can be settled in Putnam Courts. What will happen if Denny wins Judge and his wife works in the Proscutor's office? Again nothing will get done due to conflicts of interest.

-- Posted by Trying hard on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 8:15 AM

I don't see any conflict of interest since they have the same situation in the Auditor's office. One person who works in there signs the claims twice. Once as the claims deputy and again as Commissioner.

-- Posted by greenjeans22 on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 8:19 AM

Why is the conflict of interest in the Auditor's office allowed to continue?

-- Posted by justasking on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 8:51 AM

I see the potential for the conflict of interest, however if Lowe truly had the best interests of everyone (including his employees) at heart, other options would have been pursued. Other options such as transfering his wife to avoid any conflict of interest and not eliminating the family's highest income. This episode of Lowe "cutting off his nose to spite his face" is clearly vindictive and I believe voters will see that.

-- Posted by aellis83@juno.com on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 8:56 AM

Sounds like to me like the Captain is not ready to give up his ship yet.

I think there should have been other means of resolving this issue without letting go a good public defender.

-- Posted by valdostas on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 9:23 AM

When I first read this article, I didn't know what to think! Are we talking about conflict of interest here or other issues? If you want conflict of interest, how about this - my oldest son has had one atty (I won't give names) as paid, public defender and judge against him, of course all different years. My middle son has had a different atty for paid, public defender and prosector against him, now how is that lawyer/client privlege when they already know your history. The rotation theory in Greencastle has a lot to be desired, especially when talking about conflict of interest. No, my sons are not hardened criminals, just made some wrong, stupid decisions which build up each time especially in the Putnam County Court system.

-- Posted by Confused citizen on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 9:47 AM

Judge Lowe made a decision and Bridges took it like a true gentlemen. Although I don't know Bridges, I'm very impressed. He will make a good judge. He has my family's vote

-- Posted by tenspeed1984 on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 10:18 AM

After reading the article did anyone stop to think that maybe Mr. Bookwalter made the wrong decision?? Tracy shouldn't have been hired in any area of the court system if Denny is the public defender OR judge! If you are awaiting trial and the wife of your public DEFENSE attorney works in the PROSECUTOR'S office would you not see that as a problem?? I'm not sure I would receive fair representation. There is a big difference between small claims court(no atty required) and criminal court. Just because there are improprieties in other areas of the Putnam County Courthouse offices doesn't mean this practice has to continue. Thank you, Judge Lowe for upholding the integrity of the courts. He is not on a power trip!! He is retiring from the bench after many years of service and not running for office again!!

-- Posted by statethefacts on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 10:22 AM

Is this any worse conflict than Judge Headly sitting in cases involving the Greencastle schools where his wife works?

-- Posted by FAW on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 11:59 AM

Talk about conflicts of interest look at the ties of the Judge to DePauw. I can tell you by experience guilty or not whatever DePauw says or claims goes. The entire Putnam County Courts system needs a house cleaning. Come to think of it I quess Frisbee went to DePauw as well.

-- Posted by Trying hard on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 2:56 PM

He's sure got some nerve firing Mr. Bridges for that!

I heard that one of Judge Low's employees works part-time for a defense lawyer and the judge goes for free stays up at that attorney's property. its some kind of lodge or something.

That looks worse than the stuff in this article.

-- Posted by coltercity on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 5:42 PM

He's got some nerve firing Denny for that.

I hear that one of Low's employees works part time for a local defense attonrey and that the judge gets to stay at that attorney's lodge for free.

that seems worse than anything in this article.

-- Posted by coltercity on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 6:06 PM

He's got some nerve firing Denny for that. I hear that one of Low's employees works part time for a local attorney and that the judge goes for free stays at that attonrey's lodge.

-- Posted by coltercity on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 6:09 PM

Did anyone bother to find out exactly what it is that Mrs. Bridges does, and just how it could be a conflict? Well, after reading the article I ran into her in Kroger...so I asked. She explained to me that she assists the victims of crimes with their restitution, alerts them to jail and or prison releases as well as upcoming trial and sentencing hearings that may affect their case. Nor does she ever testiy in court or make recommendations to the court for the victims. She also informed me that Denny had called the former Director of the State Board of Ethics Commission before she took the position and he was told it was in no way a conflict. I think its about time the county knew the whole truth, not just what the Judge had to say.....JUST WHERE IS THE CONFLICT? Funny, I understand Judge Lowe has fired other public defenders and it never even made the paper...why the front page? It seems to me this is just about making good people look bad.

-- Posted by justasksomeone on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 7:13 PM

The Banner seems to have a copy of the letter Judge Lowe wrote. They got a statement from Mr. Bridges. I wonder if the Banner even called Judge Lowe for a statement. I bet not!

-- Posted by stay at home mom on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 7:14 PM

That sound you hear in the distance is the Putnam County Republican Party throwing each other under the bus.

-- Posted by localman on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 8:07 PM

It would have been more of a surprise if Lowe would not have initiated this action. Political actions such as this exemplifies what has been and always will be a dirty business.

Just because the Judge for some reason has the authority for such actions, does not mean it was done for the reasons stated and was a truly ethical decision.

Mr. Bridges, from what is printed, seems to have accepted the action in an honorable manner. If I can get to the polls, he certainly has my vote. Character does count.

-- Posted by gingb2 on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 8:18 PM

Denny Bridges is a great citizen, respectable person, and an honest man! How can Lowe do such a low thing?

I'm voting Bridges for judge in 2008

-- Posted by bossman on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 9:46 PM

well i can see judge lowe doing that! when you walk into his court room he tells ya its judge lowes laws nothing matters like the law on the books mean, when he makes the rules as he see's fit

-- Posted by katjr1010 on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 10:45 PM

Denny Bridges is a greet guy and I believe that if everything works out right he will be judge

-- Posted by firefighter0300 on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 11:54 PM


-- Posted by firefighter0300 on Wed, Apr 30, 2008, at 11:57 PM

I would not be so quick to jump on the Bridges bandwagon. The only thing that he has proved is that he has been a trooper for 20 years, retired, went to Law School and passed. A nice guy does not qualify as a judge. He has been a lawyer for not even 3 years yet! I think that we should see who his opposition is when it comes election time and give all candidates a fair shot.

-- Posted by localjoe on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 5:55 AM

Public Defender , Putnam County Prosecutor's Office .... I agree with Judge Lowe. I'm sorry if someone has to loose their job, That is some of the things we do for love. I'm sure it will all work out in the end. Love always servives...

-- Posted by Sand mann on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 7:01 AM

I agree with Judge Lowe, isn't there ANYONE else out there that can hold Mrs. Bridges job in the prosecutors office? Sure there is... I know this is a small town but it gets tiring seeing family & friends get jobs because they are just that family & friends. There are plenty of opportunities for qualified individuals, and plenty of qualified individuals. You need to look a little further in the community for qualified individuals. Besides, stuff like this comes back to bite you in the behind, Judge Lowe was just preventing that from happening sooner or later, and it would have. Between Husband & Wife, they should and did make the decision... conflict or not, sooner or later something would have happened!

-- Posted by SamHill on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 7:10 AM

Hey FAW--Headley's wife doesn't teach in the Greencastle Corporation--get your story straight!

-- Posted by dodgers on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 9:25 AM

HarleyRat, I'm so disappointed. I was going to offer you money for your vote in the upcoming election and then ask you to base your trust on physical assault against women. Dog-gone the luck anyway! Who could you be paid to vote for? Just how far can you throw a woman?

-- Posted by Xgamer on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 6:55 PM

xgamer, couldnt throw her very far. That is how much I trust both of them. Mr Lowe mad the right choice.Maybe he knows what I know.

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 7:01 PM

taxplayer, based on the article, what calls for "shame"? Did you read this quote?

"My understanding was that (Bridges) had gotten it approved by the state ethics commission," he said. "To me, that cleared it. I guess Judge Lowe disagrees with the judicial qualification commission."

Or this?

""Bridges said he asked Lowe what the exact conflict of interest would be.

"He couldn't tell me," Bridges said. "He just had a gut feeling and couldn't articulate it.""

You must be a real fan of Lowe to pull that finger out of a nostril and paste shame on it, and point it at the rest of the court. Your comment made as much sense as Lowes decision. I'm still trying to see where shame is meritted.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 7:15 PM

HarlyRat, maybe you should share with the rest of the voters what you "know"! That would come in handy when casting a ballot.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 7:17 PM


Its harleybrat not harleyrat.Everyone will know soon enough.

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 7:48 PM

You've got nothing HarleyRat, except maybe personal problems with Bridges. Most who comment on the article applaud Mr. Bridges as do I for the way he handled this action. As for Judge Lowe, his public actions are questionable and he has provided no public reasons for such (that make any sense). Crankcase oil is on sale at Bloomington Harley Davidson.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Thu, May 1, 2008, at 8:43 PM

This town is all about who you know if you get the job.If you are a no name you wont even get a call for an interview.I still back Mr. Lowe.Bookwalter sent one of his own workers to the court house to work and let Tracie work for him.I wonder how many people even got inteviewed fot the job at the court house that was advertised in the banner.? My guess is O

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 8:11 AM

Hey bossman! Wrong an all three statements about Bridges. You don't know him as well as I do.

-- Posted by dumpsterdiva on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 12:38 PM

I'll second ya dumpsterdiva, Guess bossman is not talking about the same person we are!!!!

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 12:47 PM

What happened to localjoes comment? Thought we still had free speech.

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 2:43 PM

bossman, dont worry about HarleyRat and dumperdiva's comments, more than likely they got busted by Bridges in the past and still hold a grudge. I've heard more horror stories about Lowe than some can make up about Bridges.

bingo2, I can arrange a ride for you to the polls if you need one. I'm not trying to "buy" your vote, you seem to display more common sense than others on here and SHOULD cast your vote.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 4:15 PM

Hey Harly.. I guess my comments have been terminated?!?!?!

-- Posted by localjoe on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 6:23 PM

We have seen many judges in Putnam County. Most of them went to law school right out of High School, became attorneys, then prosecutors or defenders, and finally judges. The criticism was off the chart over the years about these judges. Now we have a candidate who was a state policeman for over 20 years, then went to law school and became an attorney and a public defender in a matter of a few years. Now he is running for Judge. This termination will probably spark more support for him in the upcoming election, as if he needs any. I am welcoming his ascent in the judicial system and have high expectations of him as Judge.

This man may have the best experience of anyone to hold this position, and as history shows, he certainly won't be the worst man (person) to hold the seat.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 7:39 PM

xgamer - You must of brushed up against me at T's and gained some insightful knowledge as you spoke quite logically when you stated:

"This man may have the best experience of anyone to hold this position, and as history shows, he certainly won't be the worst man (person) to hold the seat."

I do believe with the absence of some comments, a few posters are giving hillbillies and want-A-be bikers a bad name. Keep up the good work xgamer keeping them in line.

-- Posted by gingb2 on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 8:28 PM

This action was low even for Lowe. The actions just don't support the scenario as stated in the article.

Thank you xgamer for the offer of a ride to the polls as my automobile really is in the shop. Made other arrangements already but could rearrange them if you have one of them Harleys motorcycles....Always wanted to ride one. Ha.

-- Posted by gingb2 on Fri, May 2, 2008, at 9:01 PM

"Meg Babcock, counsel to the Indiana Commission on Judicial Qualifications, said she had spoken to Bridges, and that she didn't "understand what the conflict of interest" Lowe spoke of might be. "

Here is another person of some authority who is puzzled by Lowe's action. This person has no criticism for Bridges either.

bingo2, you won't ever catch me in the category of "HD owner". There are far better motorcycles to drive you to the polls with.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Sat, May 3, 2008, at 5:41 AM


For your infomation I have never been arrested for anything, not even a so called ticket.I also do not own a harley and never have. So before you go putting me down maybe you should learn some facts first.Maybe you should stick to playing games.

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Sat, May 3, 2008, at 9:14 AM

HarleyRat, I never said you were arrested, was not even putting you down. You were slamming Bridges. You were asked about the so-called "knowledge" you and Lowe had on Bridges and you don't have what it takes to state it. Now you are saying that you don't even have a Harley. There are all kinds of facts stated in the article written by Jamie Barrand and you are dismissing them all with your mindless rants in comment. Maybe you should have someone read the article to you and be made aware of the facts of the story. It happens to be a well written story of the recent events in our County Court.

Rather you like Bridges or not, the actions taken by Judge Lowe are controversial.

con·tro·ver·sial [kon-truh-vur-shuhl]

--adjective 1. of, pertaining to, or characteristic of controversy; polemical: a controversial book.

2. subject to controversy; debatable: a controversial decision.

3. given to controversy; disputatious.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Sat, May 3, 2008, at 7:03 PM

Enough already!! Denny is a good man and his wife Tracy is nice as well. What is done is done. Lets see how the cards play out and may the best man win! It will be interesting to see after the primary, who is going to oppose Mr. Bridges for the opportunity to be Judge.

-- Posted by localjoe on Sun, May 4, 2008, at 6:13 AM

Enough what, UncleJoe? Are you closing the comment box now? Sorry, I didn't see the hours posted on the window! What has been done is not necessarily done, and possibly could be undone, before it is all done. Sometimes it takes a while to be completely done, therefore we may not be done getting it done. I'm certainly not done reading good comments about Mr. and Mrs Bridges, and patiently waiting for a possible informative comment about what has transpired. Maybe Jamie Barrand has a follow up story in the making.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 5:41 AM

who's running against him in the general election. We need a democrat in there anyway. how much experience does he really have has a lawyer let alone judge?

-- Posted by climberguy on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 7:47 AM

None as a lawyer none as a judge.

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 2:41 PM

Hey Zgamer, Never been busted by anyone. Never have been in any trouble. His past behavior I speak of because of personal knowledge and how it affected my family. A big NO NO as far as we are concerned. Don't write that about which you know nothing of.


-- Posted by dumpsterdiva on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 3:33 PM

dumpsterdiner, glad to hear you are an outstanding citizen-never stated you weren't. It would be helpful to us all by Tuesday to know what should keep Bridges from getting our vote. If it is only a secret personal matter, then we can only speculate and ingore you I guess. I'm writing about what I DO know, and that is I feel that he is a worthy candidate. Yourself and HardleyRat seem to only express a personal grudge that can't sway my opinion. Hope you exercise your right to vote. Right on. Power to the people.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 4:10 PM

i hope someone else runs. I'm sure mr. bridges is a good guy but just don't want to trust someone with little to no experience in the actual judicial system. I understand he was a state trooper but what does that have anything to do they way the court system runs? I understand this county is highly republican but in my oppinon it's not a Democrat or Republic position but a bipartison position. A judge can not make decisons based on personal oppinion but mearly on the law. So if someone does run against mr. bridges in the general I would deffinetly have to look closely at both candidates.

-- Posted by climberguy on Mon, May 5, 2008, at 9:15 PM


You did claim dumpsterdiva and I were holding a grudge against Bridges because we had been busted.We are telling you we have not, We are good citizens stating we are not voting for him. Im not trying to get people to not vote for him!!! Just saying Im not. I do have a right to my opinion. Im not putting what I know on black and white.This would only hurt several people.Im not here to hurt.Just stating my opinion.It doesnt seem like you are on here for comments, only on here to down people and their opinions.

-- Posted by Harleybrat on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 9:07 AM

HardlyR,,, whatever. Re-read all the comments. You've put down someone and have only secrets as to why. I clearly shared my reasons for supporting Bridges. My comments state my opinion as well. Your interpretation of my comments is what offends you, you clearly read between the lines. Read other stories and you will find I comment on many things, and yes, I challenge many people who "down" others, like you "downed" Bridges and his wife. As matter of fact, your original comment has been deleted! Remember your trust comment? I still believe Lowe's actions are controversial and Bridges can't do any worse than any Judge we have had in the past. Good article Jamie!

-- Posted by Xgamer on Tue, May 6, 2008, at 9:13 PM

Judge Lowe did make a response to the paper. He stated Bridges asked the ethics commission if Tracy's position would conflict him holding a Judge's seat on the bench. His letter is on-line, look under "opinion", his letter was sent May 2nd. Unfortunately, there are no comment boxes in that column, probably a good thing.

-- Posted by Xgamer on Wed, May 7, 2008, at 5:51 AM

I would have to agree with Xgamer on this. This could have been handled in a more "judicial" manner if there was true conflict. Both of the Bridges could have been called in and given the oppurtunity to alleviate any conflict, imagined or not. They were both put into the very system Lowe is using to call foul. Now that the May elections are over Lowe might as well reinstate Bridges as I think this move backfired on Lowe.

-- Posted by gingb2 on Thu, May 8, 2008, at 8:58 PM

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