Louisville judge tells Metro Corrections officials they have a 'leadership problem'
Assistant County Attorney Matt Golden, who is representing the jail, said he believed many of the judge’s claims were not accurate.
LOUISVILLE, Ky., (WDRB) -- With Metro Corrections Director Mark Bolton and his top staffers ordered before her, a Louisville judge cited a "leadership problem" at the jail she said has created a pattern of failing to follow judicial orders on releasing inmates.
In an extraordinary hearing, Jefferson District Court Judge Stephanie Burke harshly criticized jail officials and ordered them to prepare for a March court date to determine if they were in contempt for not following orders.
Burke told them she had tried to resolve the issues informally -- calling, texting, emailing and going to see jail officials -- but was "unsuccessful" and bringing them to court was necessary.
"I think this is a leadership problem," Burke told Bolton, his spokesman Steve Durham and Chief of Staff Dwayne Clark, among others. "I think this is a systemic problem. …. There is a wide consensus, not just in this court but in others, among the (Bar Association), the court staff, the clerks, the sheriffs, that this is a problem and it's a daily problem. This is something that needs to be a collaborative effort to resolve."
Burke said there is a "culture and attitude" from some top officials at Metro Corrections that they do not need to follow judicial orders.
In an order filed Tuesday, Burke cited numerous examples of inmates who had either been released too soon or kept in jail after they were supposed to be let out, causing hardship for inmates and a danger to citizens.
"The errors … jeopardize the safety of the community," Burke wrote. "The errors … have caused the loss of employment, the loss of treatment opportunities, missed medical and mental health appointments, and they have placed Defendants and others at risk of harm."
Burke cited 16 specific cases in which Metro Corrections is accused of not following orders, and she argues that between Jan. 4 and Jan. 20 of this year, the jail has failed to bring "numerous" defendants to their scheduled court dates.
The judge also writes in her order that she is only including a "limited number of the incidents" Louisville judges have dealt with in recent months.
But Assistant County Attorney Matt Golden, who is representing the jail, said he believed many of the judge's claims were not accurate.
In a written response, Golden said there are "significant factual inaccuracies" and cited two of the cases Burke mention, arguing Metro Corrections employees had followed orders correctly.
Golden wrote that the jail wanted time to review all of the cases to "vet" them before responding further.
"We look forward to addressing each and every one of these allegations," Golden told Burke.
Burke set the civil contempt hearing date for March 28. In civil contempt, a person is punished until they follow a judge’s order, with possible jail time or fines.
In one example, Burke wrote, Lily Merrick, was released March 23 despite not posting a $5,000 bond and telling jail staff she was not supposed to be let out "and that she feared she would be in trouble for their error."
Another defendant, John Medley, was sentenced on April 14 by District Judge Anne Delahanty to serve 171 days in jail but was released in error before being arrested four days later.
"You're one of the luckiest guys I know," Delahanty told Medley, according to a court video from April. The judge noted that Medley had been mistakenly released from Metro Corrections twice. "I feel like I should ask you some lottery numbers or something so we can all get rich."
Jacob Healey, according to Burke, was ordered to serve three days days in jail on Jan. 9, but was still in custody on Jan. 13 when court officials realized the error.
"I don't know why I was held longer," Healey said in an interview Wednesday with WDRB. "I work full-time and pay my taxes, yet I pay for people to be falsely imprisoned. I don't think that's fair."
In another case, defendant Megan Jackson was ordered to home incarceration with work release on Jan. 12 but officers "disregarded" the order, Burke wrote.
On Jan. 18, Jackson's attorney, James Puszczewicz, came before Judge Burke to tell her jail officers were not following her order, according to a video of the hearing.
"It's happened to me a dozen times or more," he told the judge.
Burke told him there had been repeated problems with the jail following orders and she would be filing a motion as to whether to hold jail officials in contempt, according to the hearing.
"I'm done with this," she said. "I have a whole stack of cases they've done this. It’s ridiculous."
But Golden wrote that Jackson’s case was handled properly and Burke was relying on Puszcewicz’s to determine if the jail had made a mistake.
"As an aside, Meagan Jackson is alleged to have escaped … by slipping off her ankle bracelet with Vaseline and was later apprehended while intoxicated," Golden wrote. "… Many of the allegations against 'the jail' contain similar inaccuracies."
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