Louisville judge to receive public reprimand for misconduct
Jefferson District Court Judge Sheila Collins won't be suspended after admitting in a disciplinary hearing Tuesday that she "made a mistake" in ordering court officials to charge and lock up an alleged domestic violence victim who told the judge she had lied to police.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Jefferson District Court Judge Sheila Collins won't be suspended after admitting in a disciplinary hearing Tuesday that she "made a mistake" in ordering court officials to charge and lock up an alleged domestic violence victim who told the judge she had lied to police.
Instead, the Judicial Conduct Commission voted to publicly reprimand Collins on Friday for violating two judicial canons.
Collins is "disappointed" with the reprimand because she has an "impeccable record" over the last four decades as an attorney and judge, said her attorney, Stephen Ryan. But the judge acknowledges she made a mistake, he added.
Judge Collins will retire later this year, Ryan said. Her retirement has nothing to do with the reprimand, he said.
The commission charged Collins with misconduct for locking up Jasmine Stone, an alleged victim of domestic violence, without providing her an attorney or holding a hearing. It happened during a June 11 bond reduction hearing for Lomac Jeter, who was accused of assaulting Stone. During that hearing, Stone told Collins she made up the story, changing the statements she gave to a police officer.
When Stone also denied an earlier sworn statement that she is pregnant, Judge Collins ordered a deputy to take her into custody and asked prosecutors to charge her with false swearing. The judge set Stone's bond at $10,000 cash -- which was twice the amount of bond set for Jeter.
And Collins, "later refused to lower the bond even upon learning that Mr. Jeter had contacted Ms. Stone and pressured her to recant," according to the notice of charges by the conduct commission.
The commission found that Collins failed to give Stone due process and set the bond for her despite the judge being the complaining witness.
Collins "should never have directed the Sheriff to take this witness into custody and to charge the witness with a crime," according to the ruling. "That is not the role of the Judiciary."
Collins, according to the commission, violated a judicial canon requiring judges to "respect and comply with the law and to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the integrity and impartiality of the Judiciary." Also, the commission found Collins guilty of failing to dispose of a case "promptly, efficiently, and fairly."
Collins "admits that she made a mistake" but argued it was not made in bad faith, according to the ruling.
Stephen Ryan, an attorney for for Collins, stated in court documents that the judge did not have the authority to order charges be filed against Stone, and should have simply held her in contempt of court.
Collins admitted as much during testimony at her April 19 hearing.
"I realized after the fact that would be the appropriate way to handle it," said Collins.
The commission, however, ruled that nothing Stone said amounted to contempt of court without a hearing involving the officer in the case.
But the commission also took note of several witnesses who testified on behalf of Collins and a "large number" of affidavits praising her abilities on the bench.
The commission could have chosen to suspend or even remove Collins from the bench for the misconduct. The vote to reprimand Collins was 4-1.
This story will be updated.
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