Trials & Litigation

Judge Castigates 'Petulant and Peevish' Prosecutors for Media Contact, Says He Won't Be Swayed

A Kentucky judge blasted prosecutors for alerting local media in what he claimed was a “petulant and peevish” effort to pressure him into ruling in the state’s favor when deciding whether to release a jailed defendant on shock probation.

However the first assistant of the commonwealth’s attorney’s office, Harry Rothgerber, said Jefferson Circuit Judge Charles Cunningham was taking personally what was said by prosecutors simply doing their job in objecting to the release of Michael Todd Settles, the Courier-Journal reports.

In a sharply worded order on Friday, Cunningham accused the state of using inappropriate tactics to try to sway the court in its favor, including contacting the media.

“Presumably, the tacit (but not terribly subtle) argument of the commonwealth is that the undersigned risks political rejection and personal scorn if he rules against the prosecution,” wrote Cunningham. “The question thus posed is: should a judge decide an issue contrary to the law and facts of a case simply because it is not popular to do so? … This court cannot and will not succumb to such pressure.”

Rothgerber said his office intends to appeal Cunningham’s probation determination. The state has argued that the judge lacked jurisdiction to make the ruling because a statute requires such a decision to be made within 70 days; the judge said the deadline could be and was waived.

As to the judge’s comments, “this is not a personal issue,” the prosecutor told the newspaper. “This is a legal issue that we are dealing with. I’m not going to get into personalities.”

An earlier Courier-Journal article provides additional details.

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