Jason Riley, WDRB News, August 8, 2016
Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens has been suspended 90 days without pay and apologized for public comments he made about top prosecutor Tom Wine after Wine challenged the judge’s decision to dismiss an all-white jury.
The state Judicial Conduct Commission had charged Stevens in April with numerous counts of judicial misconduct–including comments he made about Wine, claiming he wanted all-white juries, complaints about defense attorneys and criticism of victims of a robbery who were in his court–and a trial-like hearing was planned for this week.
But before the hearing began Monday morning, both sides announced an agreement, with Stevens acknowledging he was “wrong.”
“I recognize how serious it is to accuse someone, either expressly or implicitly, of racism,” Stevens read from a prepared statement. “I do not believe Tom Wine is a racist. I apologize for any statements that implied as much.”
Wine said in a statement Monday that he accepts Stevens’ apology.
“I have had no personal animosity towards Judge Stevens and I have none now,” Wine said. “I believe my energies and focus are better spent working for justice and fairness with our criminal justice partners and protecting victims of crime.”
The commission, which is the disciplinary arm of the judicial branch and had planned to call witnesses this week in a Jefferson County courtroom, took a brief recess to discuss the agreement before accepting it 6-0.
Stevens, who has been suspended with pay since April, could have been cleared, reprimanded, suspended or even removed from the bench.
On April 5, Stevens asked the commission to dismiss the charges against him, arguing the investigation and possible disciplinary actions were a violation of his First Amendment rights and he has a duty to discuss what he feels is the systemic exclusion of black citizens on juries.
The comments constituted “misconduct” and violated several judicial canons requiring, among other things, that judges not be biased or show prejudice, the commission charged.
[Editor’s Note: This is the same judge who criticized parents after they testified that their daughter was “in constant fear of black men” after an armed robbery.]