The following news story from the Harlan Daily Enterprise is posted in its substantial entirety because the ramifications are signficant. A sitting judge, elected by the citizens, was removed by the SCOKY.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission’s decision to remove Harlan Circuit Court Judge Russell Alred from the bench.
The Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments in this matter approximately three months ago. An order to remove Alred from the bench was handed down by the Commonwealth of Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC) on Sept. 20. That order is only the fourth such order issued since the JCC was established in the early 1980s.
The Kentucky Supreme Court’s decision, released on Monday, states that Alred was found guilty of judicial misconduct in nine out of 20 charges made by the JCC. The Supreme Court upheld the commission’s order on eight counts and reversed the commission’s decision on one count.
That count included, “on two occasions, Judge Alred questioned the principal of his children’s elementary school about why a certain defendant continued to work as a substitute teacher at the school while she had pending fraud charges in the Harlan Circuit Court.” The Kentucky Supreme Court stated that the commission’s findings regarding that count were erroneous because they are not supported by sufficient evidence.
The written decision also states “from our review of the record, it is clear that Judge Alred engaged in a pattern of misconduct, displaying disregard for the law and the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct. He continually refuses to accept responsibility for his actions or acknowledge his wrongdoing. Accordingly, we agree with the commission that there is good cause under section 121 of the Kentucky Constitution to remove Judge Alred from his judicial office for misconduct, as defined in the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct.”
The decision to remove Alred from office was not without opposition among members of the high court. Five members of the court, including Chief Justice John Minton, Justices Wil Schroder, Mary Noble, Lisabeth Hughes Abramson and Daniel J. Venters concurred with removing Alred from office.
Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/23/2267865/kentucky-supreme-court-upholds.html#storylink=cpy
Kentucky Supreme Court Justice Bill Cunningham concurred in part and dissented in part.
Cunningham wrote “Judge Alred has not killed or physically injured anybody. He has not molested his secretary. He has not stolen a dime. In fact, he hasn’t even been charged with a crime of any kind — misdemeanor or felony. None of his friends or family members have gotten rich or gone free because of his missteps. He has not enriched himself financially nor engaged in any kind of debauchery.”
Cunningham stated he disagreed with removing Alred from office.
“I know that in the past, at least, we have had judges convicted of crimes continue to serve on the bench. Therefore, I concur in part and dissent strongly in part. I concur with the adept handling of constitutional issues by the Chief Justice. I dissent as to the penalty of removal from office, as well as our court’s treatment of some of the charges,” wrote Cunningham.
Justice Will T. Scott dissented along with Cunningham.
According to Leigh Ann Hiatt, Public Information Officer for the Administrative Office of the Courts, Alred will continue to receive pay and benefits until his removal from office becomes effective.
Alred’s attorney, Marcus Carey, explained during a telephone interview on Monday there are options available should Alred decide to pursue the matter further.
“The first option, which is pretty apparent, is to ask the court to reconsider,” said Carey. “There is the option to ask a federal court to review whether or not the actions of the state violated constitutional protections to which Judge Alred would’ve been entitled.”
Carey explained that it is not known at this time which, if any, options will be pursued.
“The opinion was rendered about five hours ago and I’ve only recently gotten a copy of it in my hands. I’ve reviewed it very briefly. I see a couple of things that are worthy of more careful scrutiny to determine what the best option would be,” said Carey.
According to Carey, there is a question of due process to be considered.
“When the Supreme Court rules, obviously we have to respect that ruling. But on the other hand, in the pages of their ruling, they have made some decisions which effect the due process rights of judges throughout Kentucky. The question becomes whether or not in this case seeking further review of their opinions is going to be warranted or not,” stated Carey.
In an interview conducted by telephone on Monday, Jeff Mando, attorney for the Commonwealth of Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission, explained the options open to Alred may include the United States Supreme Court.
“Under the rules of civil procedure, he can file a petition for re-hearing with the Kentucky Supreme Court,” said Mando. “Once the (Kentucky) Supreme Court’s decision is final, he can petition the United States Supreme Court to look at the case.”
Mando explained the chances that the U.S. Supreme Court would accept the case, if it were to be submitted, are low.
“It’s statistically very difficult. They accept such a small percentage of cases that they are asked to review,” said Mando. “They generally don’t delve into matters of interpretation of state law.”
It will now be up to Gov. Steve Beshear to appoint an individual to fill the post of Harlan Circuit Court judge until the next election in 2014.
Alred could not be reached for comment.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org