Prosecutors accuse Louisville judge of violating court order by - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Prosecutors accuse Louisville judge of violating court order by refusing to allow traffic program

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – The Jefferson County Attorney’s office says a district judge is violating a higher court’s order by refusing to allow traffic offenders to have their cases dismissed through the office’s Drive Safe Louisville program.

Jefferson Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin ruled last week that District Court judges Sean Delahanty and Stephanie Burke committed a “great injustice” as the only judges not to allow citizens to participate in the traffic program.

But despite Chauvin’s ruling, Delahanty has “refused” to grant requests from prosecutors to dismiss traffic cases in which citizens have successfully completed the program, according to a motion filed by County Attorney Mike O’Connell on Friday.

In the motion, O’Connell asks Chauvin to order Delahanty to come to court and explain “how and why he is somehow justified in not complying” with the Dec. 28 ruling.

Delahanty, who ruled the program was unconstitutional in October 2015, has said he is going to appeal Chauvin’s ruling.

In an affidavit filed with O'Connell's motion, Assistant County Attorney Deandrea Baltimore said Delahanty told her in court on Jan. 4 that Chauvin's order did not go into effect for 10 days, and he also believed the ruling was "flawed" and "wrong." 

In addition, Baltimore said Delahanty asked an attorney for a traffic offender how he felt about a vendor for the program "being a millionaire." 

Of the $4 million the traffic program has brought in, more than $1 million has gone to a private vendor.

Baltimore also said Judge Delahanty "took a phone call and in open court made unprofessional comments about my actions in the courtroom to the caller."

The prosecutor said Delahanty treated her disrespectfully as she was trying to tell traffic offenders they may be eligible for the traffic program.

"This was the most difficult and contentious environment in which I have worked in Jefferson District Court," Baltimore said in the affidavit.

Delahanty did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

In court this week, Delahanty allegedly told a prosecutor “he does not believe Judge Chauvin has the authority to force” him to accept the traffic program or “tell him how he has to rule on every case before him,” O’Connell wrote in his motion.

The motion does not say that Burke is also not allowing traffic offenders to take part in the program.

Chauvin is scheduled to hear the case on Monday.

Delahanty had been the lone local judge holding out on agreeing to dismiss cases handled in traffic programs launched as revenue generators by county attorneys – even though the Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled they are legal. Burke joined him after his 2015 ruling.

In that ruling, Delahanty maintained that the statute passed by the General Assembly to allow the traffic programs "was rushed into implementation and is constitutionally flawed." The law "negates or unreasonably limits" the authority of the district court judges to use their own discretion in sentencing, he ruled.

But Chauvin ruled it was beyond Delahanty and Burke’s authority to find the program unconstitutional, arguing it is a legislative matter.  

O'Connell is one of more than 80 county prosecutors who have launched traffic schools to raise revenue for their offices. The money is distributed to several recipients, including the county clerk. So far, the program has generated about $4 million.

Drivers charged in Jefferson County with any of 17 moving violations can pay $179 to take a two-hour, online class and get their citation dismissed.

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