The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Judicial Conduct Commission publicly reprimanded Robert B. Conley, the state’s 20th Judicial Circuit Judge (Greenup and Lewis counties), the commission announced on Wednesday.
A complaint regarding Conley’s conduct during a Jan. 2 criminal docket led to a preliminary investigation.
During a flagrant non-support case hearing, Conley told the defendant to shut up after the defendant explained why he had not made required payments, according to the commission’s report. He, the report stated, continued to question the defendant about who was saddled with the responsibility of handling those payments. When the defendant tried to answer, according to the report, Conley banged his gavel and ordered the bailiff to “send him to jail.”
Conley failed to have a hearing or make a written finding of contempt, according to the report. Conley then “intemperately admonished everyone in the courtroom that speaking over him was contemptuous and would be treated as contempt by the court,” stated the report. The defendant spent three days behind bars.
On the same day, the report stated, Conley “strongly castigated a defendant for failing to pay restitution and for missing court dates.” Conley “repeatedly raised his voice and slammed his hands on the bench,” according to the report.
Conley has “expressed remorse and acknowledged his inappropriate behavior,” the reported stated. Conley signed the agreement on Wednesday.
Conley told the commission he was suffering extreme fatigue from the flu on Jan. 2.
The judge told The Daily Independent the same on Thursday. He said a doctor diagnosed him with the flu on New Year’s Eve, but he felt obligated to come to court because some people had been in jail throughout the holidays.
“I felt terrible,” said the judge.
The flagrant non-support case in question, he said, involved a father who hadn’t paid a dime in three years. The case is five years old, Conley said.
“The mom and kid went all this time without any kind of support,” Conley said. “… He’d had a job and still didn’t pay anything. I was pretty upset with him.”
It’d be common procedure to allow the man to be released from jail, and then have him return to the bench for Conley to pen a later court date.
“For some reason, that didn’t get communicated to the jail, and he didn’t get released,” Conley said. He was let out three days later.
In the restitution case, Conley said a clear and distinct pattern had formed.
“I kept giving him chances; he owed a whole bunch of restitution,” Conley said. “That day, I slammed my hand down on the bench several times just to get through to him. I had had it.”
Conley said he lost his temper and “it was a bad day,” but that he is “a good judge. I’m not a perfect judge, but I’m a good judge.”
This November will mark 26 years on the bench for Conley. He’d never been reprimanded until now.
Conley is running for Kentucky Supreme Court 7th District.
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