Threatening to strangle a PD leads to ethics charges against judge; did stroke affect his 'filter'?

A Kentucky senior judge faces ethics charges, in part for a well-publicized case in which he threatened to “strangle” a public defender he deemed a “backseat driver” rather than a “real” lawyer.

The ethics charges against Judge Martin “Marty” McDonald cite the September incident in which the judge chastised the assistant public defender for calling him on his cell phone, the Louisville Courier-Journal reports. The PD called, with the permission of opposing counsel, to discuss a scheduling matter and used a number supplied by the court system. “If you ever call me again on my cellphone I’ll strangle you. You understand?” McDonald said.

The Judicial Conduct Commission says McDonald used an “intemperate voice” in the incident. McDonald is also accused of refusing to allow a pro se litigant to present any arguments.

The Judicial Conduct Commission will hold a hearing today on whether to temporarily relieve McDonald of his duties because he suffered a stroke 1 1/2 years ago. McDonald’s lawyer, Timothy Denison, said the stroke affected McDonald’s ability “to filter what he says,” according to the story. Denison also argues the case is moot because McDonald, 55, completed his service as a senior judge on May 31 and won’t return to the bench.

Denison said McDonald has been a “fine and respected jurist” for many years. “Hurt feelings, embarrassment and statements taken out of context have snowballed this molehill into a mountain and unfortunately scapegoated and wrongfully painted Judge McDonald as an intemperate and mean-spirited man, when in fact nothing could be farther from the truth,” Denison told the newspaper. He also said a federal judge had found no judicial misconduct in the incident involving the pro se litigant.

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