Civil Rights

Chief justice orders mediation for top prosecutor and judge in dispute over Facebook posts

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The chief justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court has ordered a Jefferson County judge and the commonwealth’s attorney into mediation to resolve a contentious dispute sparked by an issue over the racial composition of juries.

Initially up for review by Kentucky’s top court was whether Circuit Judge Olu Stevens had exceeded his powers by dismissing a jury in a theft case in November 2014 because it had no black members. However, Jefferson County commonwealth’s attorney Tom Wine asked last month that Stevens be disqualified from hearing all pending and future criminal cases, after the judge said on his personal Facebook page that Wine wanted all-white juries, according to the Courier-Journal and WLKY.

Meanwhile, Wine told the newspaper he had simply been trying to ensure that the law on jury selection is followed, by asking initially for the supreme court review, an earlier Courier-Journal story reported.

“I know what the law is,” he said. “Judge Stevens has come up with a different way of addressing things.”

The mediation ordered by Kentucky Chief Justice John Minton Jr. will be conducted before four individuals “well known in the Jefferson County community,” said spokeswoman Leigh Anne Hiatt of the state Administrative Office of the Courts. They will be identified after the mediation—which is expected to begin this week—is concluded.

Related coverage: “Was judge right to dismiss jury due to lack of black members? Top state court to decide” “Judge’s Facebook comments merit his removal from all criminal cases, prosecutors contend”

Courier-Journal: “Ky. chief justice delays Olu Stevens ruling”

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