Joe P. Asher
The Kentucky Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in the matter of Russell D. Alred Circuit Judge of the 26th Judicial Circuit v. The Commonwealth of Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission (JCC).
Alred is challenging the commission’s order that he be removed from office due to judicial misconduct. Alred was found guilty of numerous ethical violations, and an order to remove him from office was issued by the commission on Sept. 20.
According to previous reports, the order to remove Alred from office is only the fourth of its kind since the JCC was established in the early 1980s. The proceedings were held during the last three days of August.
The court allowed 30 minutes for the hearing, allotting 15 minutes to each side.
Marcus Carey, Alred’s attorney, led off the proceeding.
“The reason we are here today is Judge Alred raises on appeal…substantive due process violations as well as belief that the findings of the commission are not supported by clear convincing evidence,” stated Carey.
Carey argued that Alred had been treated unfairly by the commission, a situation Carey suggests may have been brought on by Alred’s refusal to accept a lighter penalty of suspension.
Carey also argued that the process used by the commission to decide Alred’s case was unfair, as members of the commission had already decided Alred was guilty, making it impossible for him to receive a fair judgement from the commission.
When questioned by the court about the suspension Alred was offered and refused, Carey argued that this is evidence that the commission had already made the decision that Alred was guilty.
“Your honor, I would have to look in the brief, I believe it was either a 60- or 90-day suspension,” stated Carey. “He had to admit guilt, and I believe when he told them that he could not admit guilt, they had already at that point told him that he was guilty, and made it very clear to him they felt that way.”
Carey argued that under these circumstances, it was impossible for Alred to receive a fair judgement.
“That is an area of concern, because here we are asking for a fair and impartial tribunal, who has already pre-determined the judge is guilty,” said Carey.
Carey claimed evidence of the commission’s lack of impartiality was apparent after Alred asked the commission to recuse themselves for reasons of impartiality, and the commission then issued an order to remove Alred from office.
Jeff Mando, attorney for the Commonwealth of Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission, argued that the commission did treat Alred fairly, evidenced by the fact that the commission dismissed several charges against Alred.
The court inquired as to the reason Alred was first offered a suspension then after refusal of that offer ordered to be removed from office. Mando pointed out that the offer of suspension had been made before the evidence had been presented, much like what occurs during a plea bargain.
“Those discussions all occurred before the formal charges were filed against Judge Alred,” stated Mando.
The court then interjected, advising Mando that information was in a brief that had been submitted.
“I’m not denying those discussions occurred,” said Mando. “I’m not denying that an offer was made to try and resolve the matter, but Judge Alred rejected that, Judge Alred refused to accept any responsibility for any of his actions or his conduct, and the commission went forward and presented the evidence through witnesses, through his own court records, through videotapes, to show that he violated the Canons of the Judicial Code of Conduct.”
In a brief filed with the Supreme Court on Dec. 6, Mando states “Judge Alred’s constitutional challenges fail because both the Canons and the structure of the commission have been consistently upheld both in Kentucky and in other jurisdictions around the country. Judge Alred’s appeal of the commission’s decision likewise fails because the commission relied upon clear and convincing evidence that he blatantly and repeatedly used the power and prestige of his office to advance his personal interests with no regard to his ethical responsibilities.”
The matter is now in the hands of the Kentucky Supreme Court, which may uphold the original order, issue a new order with less severe penalties, or dismiss the matter entirely.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org