Embattled Judge Olu Stevens is done handling cases till January
Stevens' cases will either be rescheduled or handled by other judges until he returns
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In the wake of a scolding by Kentucky’s chief justice and an ongoing investigation by the Judicial Conduct Commission, embattled Jefferson Circuit Court Judge Olu Stevens has decided to temporarily take himself off the bench.
Stevens notified his court staff that he would not be back on the bench until after January 1, according to court officials.
Many of his cases are being rescheduled while those with immediate needs – like where a defendant is in jail – are being handled today by Chief Jefferson Circuit Judge McKay Chauvin.
Chauvin issued an order Monday that in the event any judge is unavailable for a case that requires immediate action, the case will be referred to the court administrator who will reassign it to an available judge.
The order does not specifically mention Stevens.
One of Judge Stevens’ staff said the judge was out this week and there is no docket next week. His staff has said Stevens does not do interviews with the media.
Last week Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton denied a request to disqualify Stevens from criminal cases because of postings he made on social media about Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine and his staff about the racial makeup of juries. Minton harshly criticized Stevens but referred the request to the Judicial Conduct Commission.
It is unknown when the commission will rule on whether Stevens has violated the code of judicial conduct.
Minton said the request to remove Judge Stevens is beyond the scope of his responsibility and, if granted, would essentially amount to removing Stevens from the bench.
The decision followed a second request from Wine to disqualify Stevens from all criminal cases, claiming the judge had written numerous Facebook postings showing bias against prosecutors.
After the first request, Wine and Stevens were ordered by Minton into a private mediation. After the two completed mediation, Wine claimed Stevens broke the agreement that was reached by speaking publicly and posting to social media regarding the agreement.
"Judge Stevens’s ensuing public discourse appears to flout the directives of the Code of Judicial Conduct, creating a social-media firestorm calculated to aggrandize himself by exploiting the deep-seated and widespread distrust of the criminal-justice system by minority communities," Minton's decision states.
Justice Minton wrote that Stevens’ actions may amount to violations of the Judicial Code of Conduct and must be reviewed by the Judicial Conduct Commission.
"Judge Stevens’s dismissal of the jury panels has never been the subject of our recusal motions," Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine said in a statement. Wine clarified that his office only sought "clarification" of Stevens' order to set aside a jury.
Wine said his motion to have Stevens' removed from criminal cases was in regards to his comments on social media.
"Beyond simple disqualification, this is tantamount to a request for removal from office," Minton wrote. "A disqualification of this magnitude would effectively remove Judge Stevens from his criminal docket for the foreseeable future and render him unable to fulfill the constitutional duties of a circuit judge."
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