Family Court Judge Julie Hawes Gordon has agreed to a temporary suspension from her duties until a final decision is reached regarding six charges filed against her alleging abuse of power and misconduct.
Gordon, in a statement submitted Thursday through her counsel Kent Westberry of Landrum & Shouse LLP in Louisville, wrote:
“In order to minimize disruptions to litigants and attorneys who need to schedule in Family Court, I have voluntarily agreed to a temporary suspension from my duties as the Family Court Judge for the 6th Judicial Circuit Court, effective December 3, 2021. I look forward to a prompt resolution by the Judicial Conduct Commission.”
John D. Minton, Chief Justice of Kentucky, said there’s no definitive plan in place for how to deal with Gordon’s cases. Judge John McCarty served for a short time as Daviess County’s second Family Court judge in addition to his role as a Hancock District Court judge. Earlier this year he transitioned out of the Daviess County position to return to Hancock County full time.
“I guess what has to happen is we’ll have to confer with the sitting judges there in Daviess County and see if they have a path forward,” Minton said. “We don’t we don’t have anybody in the retired judge program that’s specifically a family court judge in the area that’s available. We’ll have to see how much of her docket the sitting judges can absorb. I’ll confer with the chief judge of the circuit and chief judge of the district and see what plans they might have to help absorb the docket.”
Allegations range from Gordon exerting influence to obstruct justice and affect the outcome of her son’s criminal proceedings, to abusing power, to not being impartial, and mismanaging her courtroom.
The initial complaint against Gordon was filed by Megan Jackson, who worked in McCarty’s office from July 2018 until she resigned in March 2021.
“I filed the complaint early February of this year while on maternity leave shortly after delivering my third child,” Jackson said. “I had planned to do so before, however, I knew the stress that would come after sending the complaint, and wanted my daughter to be born safely and did not want the stress to affect her birth. The reason I filed the complaint, I believe we have an ethical obligation to the community to speak up when elected officials are abusing the oaths they were sworn to uphold.”
On Nov. 23, the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission made public a 133-page document that included the allegations and Gordon’s response to each of them. It also included numerous statements from public officials or others either named in the complaint or who work with Gordon; many of those statements either outright dispute the claims or say Gordon has not done anything unethical or improper.
For example, County Attorney Claud Porter said the average parent in the community has the same access to him that Gordon has. Joe Welsh, executive director of Friends of Sinners, said Gordon did not exert pressure to get her son in the program nor did Welsh know of any questionable or improper conduct by Gordon.
While the complaint alleged Gordon used her influence to gain semi-private meetings with her son while he was incarcerated “at hours not available to other inmates,” Jailer Art Maglinger said he didn’t feel like Gordon tried to abuse her position as a judge and pressure him into arranging visitations and that he was nearby during those visitations. The Daviess
County Detention Center Visitation website also informs that “Visits are available 24 hours a day, except during head counts.”
Kim Emberton is a Deputy Clerk that supervises Family Court matters, according to the JCC documents. In her submitted declaration, Emberton wrote, “I am aware of a complaint that was anonymously filed with the Judicial Conduct Commission against Judge Gordon. The complaint was signed ‘3rd floor family clerks’ intimating employees in the Clerk’s Office filed the complaint. I know the clerks did not submit that complaint and I consider that complaint to have been forged. It is my belief that someone has a vendetta against Judge Gordon.”
Emberton also wrote, “Though at times I may disagree with the way Judge Gordon does things, I have never seen Judge Gordon engage in any behavior that I believe to be unethical or improper.”
When the charges were first made public, Westberry submitted a statement reading, “Judge Gordon continues to strenuously deny the frivolous allegations brought against her and looks forward to resolution of this matter by the Judicial Conduct Commission.”
In her formal response to the allegations, Gordon submitted the following through counsel:
“Judge Gordon is acutely aware of her duty to comport herself at all times in a way that will not undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary and the rule of law. And she has endeavored to do so, in horrific circumstances. Judge Gordon has used this investigation as an opportunity to scrutinize and reflect upon how she can better uphold the dignity and impartiality of the judiciary, even in the midst of her adopted son’s transgressions. She never attempted to abuse her position, but is now more cognizant, as a result of this investigation, that she is never just a parent, or just a crime victim, but always a judge – on and off the bench.”
On Nov. 24, a hearing was set for Dec. 15 in Bowling Green. The hearing was supposed to determine whether “it will be in the best interest of justice that Judge Julie Hawes Gordon be suspended temporarily from acting in her official capacity as a judge and from the performance of her duties, without affecting her pay status, until final adjudication of the pending formal proceedings.”