Scott Co. Family Court Judge Tamra Gormley faces multiple complaints before JCC

Based on an article by Shawntaye Hopkins of the Herald Lerader-

GEORGETOWN — The state’s Judicial Conduct Commission has charged a family court judge with misconduct in relation to three incidents in Scott and Woodford counties.

Family Court Judge Tamra Gormley, who was appointed in 2007 to a district that covers Scott, Woodford and Bourbon counties, is scheduled to appear in Fayette Circuit Court for a hearing at 9 a.m. Sept. 28.

The three sets of charges could result in separate or collective penalties including public or private reprimand, suspension without pay or removal or retirement from judicial office, according to documents obtained from the Judicial Conduct Commission. The commission, which investigates and reviews complaints against judges, is the only entity authorized to discipline a sitting Kentucky judge, according to state law.

(Gormley said): “I’m a hard-working judge who presides over 7,500 court proceedings each year, and we are one of the busiest courts in the state, and most people who come before me recognize these qualities and are appreciative of the positive impact our court has on families”.

“These are complaints, and I’m confident that I conducted myself appropriately in each of these.”

The commission says that on Feb. 20, 2007 Gormley denied due process rights to a man who appeared in Scott Family Court with his wife when she held him in contempt of court for violating a domestic violence order. Gormley sentenced the man to six months in jail, according to documents.

The couple appeared in court that day about a motion filed by the wife to modify the no-contact portion of the domestic violence order. (This indicates that the parties had made up and were seeking dismissal of the no contact provision…if that is correct the court’s intervention to impose more protection for the petitioner than the petitioner wanted is unusual.)

Gormley did not witness the man talking to his wife in the hallway outside the courtroom, according to the commission’s report, and she did not witness him at his wife’s house the night before.

No lawyer was present and the husband was not notified that he was facing a contempt charge, the documents say. And Gormley is accused of questioning the man without informing him that his answers might subject him to criminal contempt sanctions.

The commission says that Gormley demeaned the man as he stood in the courtroom with his wife and at one point said, “No contact means no contact, and you stop looking at her. You turn around and look at the wall.”

The response, filed by Gormley’s attorneys, said the man was staring at his wife “in a manner that was causing her to be visibly upset — she was crying and shaking.” Gormley said her direction for the husband to look at the wall, on his left, instead of his wife, standing on his right, was appropriate.

The commission’s second charge stems from incidents between July 15 and Sept. 11, 2008, in Woodford County. Gormley issued a domestic violence order and a temporary change of custody to remove a child from her father’s care and deny him visitation, according to documents.

The commission says Gormley disregarded jurisdictional or venue requirements and pleading and notice requirements for such orders and custody proceedings. Documents say Gormley acted as an advocate for the mother.

Gormley’s response said those allegations “are not legally or factually accurate.” She said the matter is pending in the Kentucky Supreme Court, so it would be inappropriate for the commission to pursue sanctions against her.

The commission’s third charge stems from a child-custody hearing on Sept. 24, 2008 in Scott Family Court, during which a mother was in an Indiana courtroom with her attorney, and the child’s paternal grandmother and paternal step-grandfather were in Gormley’s court with their attorneys and with the child’s father.

The commission says that not all communication was shared with the Indiana court, including instances when the people in Indiana were unaware that documents or notes were presented to the judge.

The Indiana court had audio from Scott Family Court, but no video.

The commission says that the Indiana court had continuing exclusive jurisdiction and that Gormley disregarded jurisdictional requirements by entering custody orders.

Gormley’s attorneys have requested that all the charges against the judge be dismissed.

ADDITIONAL CHARGES LEVIED AGAINST JUDE GORMLEY:

Gormley said she was confident she conducted herself appropriately.

According to a written notice of formal proceedings and charges, dated Sept. 2, Gormley held closed court in proceedings that should have been open. She allegedly denied Toyota employees access to the court by issuing an order, which the commission rescinded in July, saying modifications of child support would not be considered for Toyota employees until Dec. 31. She delayed deposition in a custody case for more than six months, the commission said. And she did not follow proper procedures in terminating parental rights to two fathers, according to the commission.

In a written response dated Sept. 21, Gormley denied being in violation for open court proceedings, saying she only closed court when the law supported such a decision. She also said the commission is aware of family courts that conduct proceedings in the same manner, and the Kentucky Supreme Court has recognized inconsistencies among family courts in open and closed sessions.

As for Toyota, Gormley’s response said she was worried short-term concerns about Toyota’s production had led to numerous requests to the Scott County attorney to modify child support obligations of its employees. And employees, who were paid a bonus in May, were unable to establish a substantial and continuing change in income.

The judge’s response said no affected party requested relief from the standing order. Gormley said she did not issue the order to deny anyone access to the court.

Gormley said in her response that the inadvertent delay in the custody case, in which she denied the father visitation, did not affect the welfare of the children or delay their return with the father. Her response also said the final order was entered within mandated time frames.

In regard to the fourth count, in which the commission says Gormley did not follow proper procedures in terminating parental rights to a father in Bourbon County and another in Woodford County, Gormley said the allegations were inaccurate and did not reflect her interpretation of the law.

Gormley is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 29 for a hearing.

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