County Attorney says judge should apologize for 'out of bounds' - WDRB 41 Louisville News

County Attorney says judge should apologize for 'out of bounds' comments to prosecutor

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- In an unusual hearing Monday, Jefferson County Attorney Mike O'Connell accused District Court Judge Sean Delahanty of refusing to follow a court order and making "out of bounds" comments to a prosecutor last week.

O'Connell appeared to ask Circuit Court Judge McKay Chauvin to remove Delahanty from hearing cases involving traffic offenders because Delahanty has allegedly violated an order by refusing to allow citizens to have their charges dismissed through the office's Drive Safe Louisville program.

But Chauvin conducted the entire hearing with white noise playing over court speakers, which allowed Delahanty's attorney, prosecutors and Chauvin to talk without the public hearing much of what was said. 

Afterward, Chauvin told a reporter it was "not unusual" to conduct a hearing with white noise when it involved a case that is of a "sensitive nature." Chauvin said the arguments are still public record. 

At times, however, O'Connell spoke loudly over the white noise, specifically when talking about comments Delahanty allegedly made to Assistant County Attorney Deandrea Baltimore on Jan. 4.

After Baltimore and Delahanty had finished a contentious night of hearing traffic cases, Delahanty said, according to a motion filed by prosecutors: "I'm leaving you all with Ms. Baltimore. Good luck with that. We've got plenty of deputies; they're all armed if she gets out of control. Just cue the deputy. Have a good evening, Ms. Baltimore."

"This is from a judge," O'Connell said to Chauvin, his voice rising. "It's crazy."

Chauvin did not take action on Monday, setting the case for a hearing on Feb. 3.

After the hearing, attorney Mike Mazzoli, who is representing Delahanty, declined to comment.

O'Connell said there is a tentative plan to have Delahanty avoid hearing traffic cases while the judge appeals Chauvin's ruling.

Chauvin ruled last month that Delahanty and District Court Judge Stephanie Burke committed a "great injustice" as the only judges not to allow citizens to participate in the traffic program.

Delahanty, who ruled the program was unconstitutional in October 2015, has said he is going to appeal Chauvin's ruling. And he said in court last week that Chauvin's order does not go into effect for 10 days.

In an affidavit filed with O'Connell's motion, Baltimore said Delahanty told her that Chauvin's order 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.

O'Connell said Delahanty's "actions and words are embarrassing," and he should apologize to Baltimore. 

Delahanty declined to comment. 

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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