Editorial by Retired Judge Stan Billingsley


The personal attack by Larry Forgy and Marty Ryall, on retired Franklin Circuit Judge William Graham is off base, and untrue in every respect. 


One of the finest graduates of the UK College of Law class of l971 was William Graham.  He served a long and honored career as the Franklin Circuit Judge.  Judge Graham had a reputation as an outstanding student of the law while in law school, and was one of the first members of our class (I too was in the class of l971) to be elected to the Judiciary. The UK law school class of l971, also produced Sheryl Snyder, the attorney chosen by Gov. Fletcher to represent him before the Supreme Court. 


 In all of my years of knowing Judge Graham I never knew what his political persuasion was.  It was never an issue.  He has always been recognized as one of the states finest jurists. He served as an example for the rest of us who were privileged to have made our careers in the judiciary.  As Franklin Circuit Judge he had jurisdiction over the many lawsuits involving state government operations. Never, during his entire judicial career has any decision of his been charged as being politically motivated until now.    We believe that any charge of bias against a judge should be analyzed and examined.   Any such examination of Judge Graham’s entire career will come up empty of any legitimate charge of political bias.


Now that he has been retired for a year, he has been attacked by Larry Forgy and Marty Ryall for being a “witch hunt judge? for having made rulings in support of the Franklin County Grand Jury which investigated the actions of Governor Fletcher and his administration in the merit system scandal.  We know of no rule, law or precedent that holds that a judge upon his retirement becomes politically neutered.


Forgy and Rayall, both Fletcher partisans, have added 1 and 1 to come up with 4. Their conclusion that a judge who has been retired for a year cannot properly announce his support for a candidate for Governor is wrong in many ways.  They reason that Graham’s support of Steve Beshear, a year after his retirement from the bench, is proof that his rulings regarding Gov. Fletcher were politically motivated.


We note that Steve Beshear had nothing to do with the merit system investigation. We note that the Attorney General started the Grand Jury investigation, not Judge Graham. How does support for Beshear in 2007, by a retired judge, reflect on decisions made by Judge Graham in 2006, when  Beshear wasn’t even  an announced candidate against Gov. Fletcher?  


As the Franklin Circuit Judge, the Franklin County Grand Jury investigation fell into his lap.  He did not solicit this investigation.  The allegation that ex-judge Graham has for all time forfeited his right to work for any candidate he chooses is ridiculous.  Judge Graham has the constitutional right to support any candidate he wishes.  And this in no way impugns his prior decisions as a judge.


The outrageous claims of Forgy and Ryall raise the question of political interference with the integrity of the judicial system.  Therefore let us examine the acts of Graham and Fletcher regarding their conduct regarding respect for the impartiality and integrity of the judiciary. 


The only political act alleged against Judge Graham, is that a year after he retired he decided to work for a candidate of his choice.  A candidate who was not even on the political radar as a candidate at the time of Judge Graham’s rulings.
On the other hand, let’s look at the acts of Gov. Fletcher regarding his attempts to influence the judiciary for his own self-interest:


1. Governor Fletcher appointed Special Justices Jeffrey Burdette and Ronald Green to fill the vacancies caused by the recusal of Justices Lambert and Roach, to hear his own case in the Supreme Court.  We have never heard of a defendant being able to pick two of the Supreme Court members to hear his own case.  Any person truly concerned about the impartiality of the judiciary, and the appearance of impartiality, would have allowed some other party to make these appointments.  (Judge Burdette recognizing the appearance of impropriety of his own appointment, had the foresight and integrity  to refuse the appointment.)


2.   Governor Fletcher vetoed a law that funded the offices of nine new judge positions so that he could prevent them from standing election thus allowing him to make the appointments instead.  So much for allowing the people who would be served by these nine judges to have a voice in their selection.


3. Governor Fletcher issued a blanket pardon against named and unnamed defendants for any acts they had taken which might have violated the Penal Code.  We quote the decision in: Fletcher v. Graham, 2005-SC-1009-MR (Ky. 5/18/2006) (Ky., 2006)  May 18, 2006:
“…on August 29, 2005, Governor Fletcher issued Executive Order 2005-924,…
 “I ,ERNIE FLETCHER, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, do hereby grant a full, complete, and unconditional pardon to James L. Adams, Darrell D. Brock, Jr., Danny G. Druen, Tim Hazlette, Charles W. Nighbert, Cory W. Meadows, Richard L. Murgatroyd, Basil W. Turbyfill, Robert W. Wilson, Jr., and any and all persons who have committed, or may be accused of committing, any offense up to and including the date hereof, relating in any way to the current merit system investigation being conducted by the special grand jury presently sitting in Franklin County, Kentucky and the Office of the Attorney General….


   Never in the entire history of this Commonwealth has a governor exercised the pardon power is such a naked attempt to cover up alleged criminal acts to protect himself and his administration from prosecution.  While the Governor did not pardon himself, his reservation of that option played a significant role in the plea agreement he was able to negotiate with the Attorney General to seek dismissal of the charges for which he had been indicted by the Franklin County Grand Jury. 


Forgy and Ryall, have chosen to ignore the actions of their candidate regarding questionable acts involving the judiciary and the rule of law, yet now present themselves as legitimate critics of a Judge who served honorably, with great distinction, and with an entire career demonstrating respect for the law.


There is a disease that is rampant in this country today.  It affects the reasoning of otherwise intelligent men and women. I would call it Malignant  Narcissism.  It causes the victim to reason that any failure they have can only be explained by the acts of third parties.  This disease prevents them from ever looking in the mirror and examining their own actions.  It causes them to assume that there is a vast conspiracy against them…and therefore they reason, they are freed of adherence to any moral conduct on their part, in order to justify their baseless attacks on others.


The Courier Journal in an editorial published on June 28, 2007 discusses the charges of Forgy and Ryall against Judge Graham, and they get it right.

Fletcher’s cauldron of bile           

Courier-Journal Editorial June 28, 2007


If Gov. Ernie Fletcher had any pride left, he would fire his campaign manager, Marty Ryall, for lying.
Mr. Ryall says the fact that a retired Franklin Circuit judge is making a civic contribution, by volunteering in Steve Beshear’s gubernatorial campaign, shows the probe into political hiring by the Fletcher administration was “nothing more than a political witch hunt.”
He name-calls the distinguished former jurist, William Graham, a “witch hunt judge.” Mr. Ryall knows this is not true. His boss, Ernie Fletcher, says so.
The Governor signed an agreement admitting that the investigation, conducted by a grand jury in Mr. Graham’s jurisdiction, was necessary, proper and beneficial to the state.
Q.E.D., no witch-hunt.
Gov. Fletcher himself agreed to have the grand jury’s scathing condemnation of his conduct, and that of his co-conspirators, released to the public.
He agreed to have his four appointees on the Personnel Board replaced by members nominated by the very man whom he now tries to accuse of conducting a “witch hunt,” Attorney General Greg Stumbo.
Failed gubernatorial wannabe Larry Forgy, a marginal Republican figure on whom reporters can always count for a meaningless but attention-getting quote, on deadline, said that the former judge’s decision to work for Mr. Beshear’s election “stinks to high heaven.”
Few have a nose for rot like Mr. Forgy’s, but in this instance it couldn’t have led him further in the wrong direction.
Mr. Graham devoted a long, distinguished career to the pursuit of truth in the courts. It makes sense he would devote some time, in retirement, to opposing the re-election of a governor who flouts the law, breaks promises and tells lies.
Gov. Fletcher’s hand-picked state Republican chairman, Steve Robertson, now is calling Mr. Stumbo the “Mike Nifong of Kentucky” — a reference to the North Carolina prosecutor whose conduct in the Duke University rape case led to the loss of his law license.
That dog won’t hunt.
Mr. Nifong, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, rigged his case to try to convict people who clearly were innocent.
Mr. Stumbo’s office did just the opposite: He presented overwhelming evidence to the grand jury that Ernie Fletcher and his co-conspirators were guilty and should be indicted. Mr. Stumbo’s only error was letting the Governor off the hook with a plea bargain.

The original attack article on Judge Graham:

Judge in hiring probe volunteers for Beshear

Larry Forgy says setup ‘stinks’

From Staff and AP Dispatches
FRANKFORT, Ky. — The former judge who authorized a special grand jury to investigate the hiring practices of Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s administration is now a volunteer for Fletcher’s Democratic challenger, a campaign spokesman said.
William Graham, a retired Franklin County circuit judge, has been serving as an unpaid volunteer on the campaign of Democratic challenger Steve Beshear, said spokesman Robert Kellar.
The grand jury indicted Fletcher on misdemeanor charges last year in connection with an alleged scheme to reward political supporters with protected merit system state jobs.
The indictment was dismissed last August in a negotiated settlement with prosecutors.
Fletcher has maintained that the grand jury’s investigation was politically motivated.
Fletcher supporter Larry Forgy, a Lexington attorney, said Graham’s association with the Beshear campaign raises questions about the grand jury investigation.
“It stinks to high heaven,” Forgy said.
Kellar said that Graham has been a volunteer with the campaign since before the primary election, but that he has no “official position.”
Graham, who retired a year ago, said in a telephone interview that he has known Beshear for 30 years and has been volunteering with the campaign in his spare time.
That, he said, shouldn’t cast a shadow on the grand jury’s work.
“That’s laughable,” he said.
The Fletcher campaign issued a press release yesterday calling Graham a “witch-hunt judge” and claiming that his actions were politically motivated.
“This is further proof that the hiring investigation was nothing more than a political witch hunt,” said Marty Ryall, Fletcher’s campaign manager. “The attorney general who launched the investigation proved his motivation was for higher political office. Now the judge who authorized the grand jury is openly supporting and working for Steve Beshear.”

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