Harlan Circuit Judge Russel D. Alred Removed From Office for Misconduct

By Jack Brammer — jbrammer@herald-leader.com

FRANKFORT — The Kentucky Supreme Court has upheld a decision by the Judicial Conduct Commission to remove Harlan Circuit Judge Russell D. Alred from office for misconduct.

In a 62-page opinion Monday written by Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr., the state’s highest court agreed with the commission’s finding of eight of nine counts of misconduct by Alred.

“From our review of the record, it is clear that Judge Alred engaged in a pattern of misconduct, displaying disregard for the law and the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct,” said the opinion. “He continually refuses to accept responsibility for his actions or acknowledge his wrongdoing.”

An attorney for Alred, Marcus Carey of Erlanger, argued before the Supreme Court in April that Alred was treated unfairly and should be allowed to keep his job.

The Judicial Conduct Commission ordered Alred removed last September.

Alred agreed not to preside over cases after the commission ruling last year, but he still receives his salary.

The high court’s ruling does not take effect immediately. Alred can ask the court for a rehearing.

Alred was the fourth judge since 1984 to be removed from office by the commission.

The commission had offered a deal in which Alred would receive a 90-day suspension if he would admit ethics breaches, but he refused.

The panel judged Alred guilty of numerous ethics violations, including having improper involvement in cases, failing to dispose of cases fairly, using his office to advance personal interests and misrepresenting his actions.

In the Supreme Court ruling, Justices Mary Noble and Wil Schroder concurred with Minton’s opinion. Justice Daniel J. Venters concurred in a separate opinion, which Justice Lisabeth Hughes Abramson joined.

Justice Bill Cunningham concurred in part and dissented in part in a separate opinion, which Justice Will T. Scott joined.

In his opinion, Cunningham wrote, “Judge Alred has not killed or physically injured anyone. He has not molested his secretary. He has not stolen a dime.

“In fact, he hasn’t even been charged with a crime of any kind — misdemeanor or felony. None of his friends or family members has gotten rich or gone free because of his missteps. He has not enriched himself financially nor engaged in any kind of debauchery.

“His judicial misconduct has been primarily on behalf of children and against criminals. In all his excessive exuberance, he has failed to grasp his professional responsibility. He simply has not learned how to conduct himself as a judge.”

Jack Brammer: (859) 231-1302. Twitter: @BGPolitics. Blog: bluegrasspolitics.bloginky.com

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/23/2267865/kentucky-supreme-court-upholds.html#emlnl=PM_update#storylink=cpy

In a separate opinion, Venters wrote that the conduct “most deserving of condemnation” was when two accused drug traffickers appeared before Alred and “were permitted by the judge to pay a total of a half million dollars ($500,000.00) in exchange for the judge’s order dismissing the charges.”

“One of three things occurred:

■ “Two innocent defendants paid a king’s ransom in order to buy an acquittal.

■ “Two guilty defendants were allowed to buy their way out of the justice system for a very large ‘slush fund’ controlled by the judge.

■ “Or, one defendant was innocent and the other guilty, resulting in a combination of the aforementioned evils.”

Alred then tried to muscle the Harlan Fiscal Court into using the $500,000 to build a water park.

As part of a larger pattern of misconduct, Alred also abused the grand jury process by ordering a special grand jury investigation on election eve to discredit Harlan County’s judge-executive.

Despite all that, Venters wrote, if Alred had given any convincing assurances that he was sorry for what he had done and would try to do better, he would have supported leaving him on the bench.

Alred, who has not presided over cases but has been paid since the Judicial Conduct Commission’s ruling, should look for a new line of work.

Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2012/07/24/2268516/taking-stand-for-judicial-integrity.html#emlnl=PM_update#storylink=cpy

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