The Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission has ruled that Daviess County Family Court Judge Julie Gordon be removed from office, effective 10 days from today. Gordon has 10 days to appeal the decision. The Commission’s decision was issued Friday in a 25-page document regarding Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Final Order.
The entire ruling can be found here. Gordon’s counsel, R. Kent Westberry, told Owensboro Times via email that “We are disappointed by the decision and disagree with it. We are carefully reviewing it now and will decide how to proceed after that review.”
In the 25-page document, the Commission wrote that, “After proper notice and hearing, and based on the totality of the circumstances and evidence presented at the Hearing and the broad range of repeated and systemic misconduct by (Gordon) over a substantial period of time, the Commission by unanimous vote (of 6-0) orders that Judge Gordon be removed from office.”
The Commission noted that “the severity of the penalty imposed is driven significantly by her violations of the Canons in Count I, and it alone justifies removal from office, even without the significant other misconduct found through Counts II – V.”
In their Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Final Order, the Commission wrote, in part, “Based upon clear and convincing evidence presented at the Hearing, individually, the misconduct claims against Judge Gordon are of significant concern and present numerous, serious transgressions, and a pattern of improper conduct and violations of the Rules of the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct. Collectively, the misconduct claims against Judge Gordon established at the Hearing result in a tragic but necessary disciplinary action against her as set forth below.”
As written in the document, a summary of the charges addressed at the Hearing include:
• Count I: You took numerous actions to exert your influence as Family Court Judge to obstruct justice and affect the outcome of your son, Dalton Gordon’s, criminal proceedings.
• Count II: You abused your power and overstepped the authority of your position and engaged in acts which brought your impartiality into question.
• Count III: You mismanaged your courtroom and deviated from acceptable standards of judicial conduct.
• Count IV: During the Judicial Conduct Commission’s investigation into your practices as Family Court Judge, you demonstrated a lack of candor and misrepresented material facts to the Judicial Conduct Commission and the Judicial Ethics Committee.
• Count V: You failed to recognize and avoid conflicts of interest which brought your impartiality into question.
• Count VI: You have ignored and violated the law which brought your integrity into question and created the appearance of impropriety.
Per the Commission’s document, “In sum, the misconduct alleged against Judge Gordon involved her repeatedly acting well outside the constitutional role of judge, creating conflicts and bias by acting as counsel, advisor, and advocate for her son in his criminal cases and then lobbying and pushing both the prosecutor and judge presiding over those cases to take actions as she directed. Judge Gordon failed to disclose the conflicts she created and failed to recuse from matters wherein she clearly had a conflict because of her efforts. She bullied and threatened Cabinet workers when they did not acquiesce to her manner of conducting JDNA matters or when they expressed objections to her actions and rulings, and she then retaliated against them when the Cabinet and its workers defended and pushed back through normal motion practice in her court. And, she was not forthcoming and honest with the Commission. Judge Gordon admitted much of her misconduct through her multiple written letters and formal Response to the Commission. Much more of her misconduct was established through the Hearing.”
In the “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” portion of the document, the Commission specifically detailed their findings for each of the six counts filed against Gordon. Those details can be found starting at Page 10 of the document.
Per the document, Gordon was been found guilty by the Commission of violating the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct and engaging in misconduct in 5 of the 6 counts charged against her. The Commission ruled that Gordon’s conduct violated numerous Rules of the Judicial Canons including the following:
• Failing to comply with the law (Canon 1, Rule 1.1).
• Failing to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary, and avoiding impropriety and the appearance of impropriety (Canon 1, Rule 1.2), and not abuse the prestige of judicial office to advance the personal interests of the judge or others (Canon1, Rule 1.3).
• Failing to give precedence of the judicial office over all of a judge’s personal and extrajudicial activities (Canon 2, Rule 2.1).
• Failing to perform the duties of her judicial office fairly and impartially (Canon 2, Rule 2.2) and without bias or prejudice (Canon 2, Rule 2.3(A) and (B)).
• Allowing social, political, financial or other interests or relationships to influence her judicial conduct or judgment (Canon 2, Rule 2.4(B)). Failing to be patient, dignified, and courteous to those with whom the judge deals in an official capacity, and permitting similar conduct of others subject to her direction and control (Canon 2, Rule 2.8(B)).
• Failing to disqualify herself in any proceeding where her impartiality might reasonably be questioned (Canon 2, Rule 2.11(A)).
• Failing to require her staff to act in a manner consistent with the judge’s obligations under the Code of Judicial Conduct (Canon 2, Rule 2.12(A)).
• Failing to cooperate and be candid and honest with judicial disciplinary agencies (Canon 2, Rule 2.16(A)).
• Retaliating against a person known or suspected to have assisted or cooperated with an investigation of a judge (Canon 2, Rule 2.16(B)).
• Participate in activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality. (Canon 3, Rule 3.1(C)).
• Engaging in conduct that would appear to a reasonable person to be coercive (Canon 3, Rule 3.1(D)).
Part of the order reads, “Judge Gordon’s conduct violating the Canons was not isolated but was a pattern of repeated conduct over an extended period of time and over her entire tenure as judge and in a variety of ways. Her conduct violating the Canons was extensive and frequent and provided personal benefits to her and her adult son. The conduct occurred inside and outside of the courtroom, and in her official capacity.”
It continues, “Arguably, the integrity and respect for the judiciary of the entire Commonwealth has been and is negatively impacted by Judge Gordon’s misconduct, particularly in light of her retaliation against the Cabinet and its workers. As part of the misconduct, Judge Gordon exploited her judicial position to satisfy her personal desires, a perniciously nefarious act and one that can rarely be explained away by a sitting judge. Based on the totality of the evidence presented, including acts admitted by Judge Gordon and conduct she cannot deny she engaged in, and based upon a reasonable and reasoned application of the Rules, it is clear that Judge Gordon lacks fitness to continue on the Bench.”
The Commission filed charges of judicial misconduct against Gordon on Oct. 21, 2021, after receiving “a series of complaints of misconduct,” according to the document.
Gordon was elected in 2016 to the newly created Family Division of the Daviess Circuit Court and took her oath of office in January 2017. After the series of complaints, the Commission authorized a preliminary investigation.
According to the document, Gordon responded to the notice in a 27-page letter in July 2021. Following an informal conference with Gordon and her counsel, the Commission concluded that formal proceedings should be initiated.
Gordon was notified of the proceedings and charges in October 2021. In November, she “denied several of the charges and violations of the Canons but admitted some of the operative facts set forth in the Charges,” according to the document.
A Temporary Removal Hearing was scheduled for Dec. 15, but on Dec. 2 Gordon agreed to a voluntary paid suspension.
The Formal Proceedings and hearing on the Charges commenced on April 4, 2022 and concluded on April 6.
At the conclusion of the Hearing and presentation of proof, counsel for the parties presented to the Commission a “Stipulation of the Parties.” According to the document, “Pursuant to the Stipulation, portions of Counts I, II, III, IV, and the entirety of Count VI were dismissed for lack of sufficient evidence presented during the Hearing to meet the clear and convincing burden of proof.”