LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – The Judicial Conduct Commission has released the indictment for Judge Olu Stevens, documenting the counts against him in detail, and highlighting what the Judicial Commission is calling misconduct.
This comes less than a week after Judge Olu Stevens filed his own lawsuit with the federal court, claiming the charges against him violate his first amendment rights.
The question at hand: Does a judge, who makes decisions that affect someone's life, have first amendment rights like everyone else?
Local attorneys argue no.
“Judges are not like ordinary citizens,” Attorney Thomas Clay said.
Clay says once a judge puts on a robe, they have standards they have to meet; standards that ordinary citizens do not have to meet.
“He has to be fair and impartial, he has to be guarded in his comments publically,” Clay said.
That unbiased perspective is something Attorney Jon Fleischaker says some may be questioning.
“He has put himself in a position that it would, it is reasonable to say that the public probably does not have confidence in his impartiality in criminal cases,” Fleischaker said.
This stems from a case that went to court in February 2015. Stevens was sentencing a man who pleaded guilty to burglary and robbery. His victims, who were white, said the 2013 robbery made their daughter live in constant fear of black men.
Stevens said if the robbers had been white, the girl likely wouldn't be afraid them, and sentenced the man to probation.
Also cited in the commission's indictment: the matter of racial makeup of local juries. Last November, the issue turned into a battle between Stevens and Commonwealth's Attorney Tom Wine when questions were raised about social media posts allegedly from Stevens.
“When he starts to talk about cases pending before him, then he starts to get into trouble,” Fleischaker said.
Stevens' attorney Larry Wilder, sent us a statement, saying, in part, "It may be more important that we know what our judges think and believe in their heart of hearts than to *muzzle* them with threats of discipline."
Meanwhile, Fleischaker believes the state has a right to say they're protecting the appearance of impartiality and the public's confidence in that impartiality.
“The real question is not whether he should be temporarily suspended because of his past behavior, but whether he has given a firm indication, which I believe he has, that he's going to continue this past behavior in future situations.”
A hearing is scheduled for April 19 where they may decide whether or not to temporarily suspend Stevens’ while the case is ongoing.