Recently, in Another Judge Makes the News (May 2022), I reviewed the allegations that led to a Kentucky judge being removed from office. It is rare you see a judge removed from office, even when the circumstances appear quite serious.
Just a few years ago, I wrote about three judges in Indiana that went out celebrating in an “injudicious manner” that led to criminality and gunshot wounds. One of the judges there allegedly used some sign language (“Judge [Sabrina] Bell extended her middle finger”). See Conferences and Consequences (November 2019). Though that behavior “discredited the entire Indiana Judiciary,” and led to some criminal charges, these judges were suspended from the bench, not removed from office. The Court’s order is here. That perhaps seemed more serious. Read on, and we can return shortly to this sign language judge that was only suspended.
Later, I penned Another Judge Makes the News (May 2022). That Kentucky judge had allegedly held court at some interesting times of day, and was accused of “engagement in profoundly unwise action . . . on and off the bench . . . that continued for years.” She was removed from the bench, suggesting perhaps that her behavior was more disturbing than the Indiana judges’ late night, alcohol involved, trip to a strip joint and burger restaurant that ended in sign language, shooting, and injuries. Maybe the distinction is the “for years” modifier that distinguished it?
I was surprised to hear that the Kentucky judge in Another Judge, who was removed from office on April 22, 2022 was nonetheless running for election to judicial office in “the May primary.” The Louisville Courier Journal reported on May 2, 2022 that Kentucky law prevents a “judge who was removed from running in a special election that would have let him (her) serve the rest of his (her) term.” That is, that when the judge is removed, she/he cannot then run in the special election to immediately succeed her or himself. That makes sense.
But, as yet, the Journal reported, “the (Kentucky) court has never addressed whether an ousted judge can seek a new term.” Legal ethics experts quoted in that article had various views on the topic. But, the most interesting perhaps came from “a former chair of the Judicial Conduct Commission” who said “‘if the good people of Davies County want her back,’ despite her removal ‘let them have her.'” In fairness, the removed judge is also appealing the removal decision and may yet be reinstated by the Kentucky Supreme Court.
The primary election did not apparently pan out as a remedy, however. On May 19, 2022, the Courier Journal reported that the judge did not prevail in the primary election. That report notes that she received “only 3.237 votes” and will not be in the general election. The article did not provide the math, but approximently14,900 votes were reportedly cast, and thus the former judge received “only” (about) 22% of the votes. Some might say that is a reasonable showing …….