Constitutional Law

New Facebook post by judge on lack of jury diversity sparks new recusal motion

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Mediation ordered by Kentucky’s top court apparently has not completely resolved a dispute between a Jefferson County trial judge and prosecutor.

A lengthy Friday post on a Support Judge Olu Stevens page on Facebook has led to new objections and a motion by an assistant commonwealth’s attorney seeking the jurist’s recusal in a criminal case, according to the Courier-Journal and WDRB.

At issue are two statements in the post, which concerns the lack of racial diversity on juries and appeared over Stevens’ signature.

Amidst other comments about the importance of the diversity issue and its adverse affect on minority defendants, the post suggests that an earlier effort to remove Stevens from hearing all criminal cases and criticism of his previous Facebook posts may have been intended as a distraction from the diversity issue.

Assistant commonwealth’s attorney Dorislee Gilbert, who brought the recusal motion heard Monday by Stevens, cited two comments in support of her claim that the post displayed bias against the government and violated the mediation agreement.

They are: “Their goal became taking my position in order to silence me” and “I believe the concern over my method of communication was always misplaced, purposely by many who sought to distract from the message,” the articles report.

Gilbert said Stevens denied the recusal motion on Monday.

The articles don’t include any comment from the judge on the new criticisms by the Jefferson County prosecutor’s office. WDRB reported that Stevens’ secretary said that Stevens does not do media interviews.

The judge and the prosecutor’s office initially wound up on opposite sides of a civil litigation battle after Stevens dismissed a jury in 2013 because it had no black members and the prosecutor’s office filed an appeal.

County commonwealth’s attorney Tom Wine has said he took the matter to the state’s top court because he wanted to be sure that proper procedures were followed and because he questioned whether the Stevens had the power to dismiss the jury.

However, the litigation battle heated up, and Wine sought a blanket recusal of Stevens after earlier Facebook comments by the judge.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Judge’s Facebook comments merit his removal from all criminal cases, prosecutors contend”

ABAJournal.com: “Court-ordered mediation ends judge-prosecutor dispute; blanket disqualification motion is dropped”

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