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Monday, August 12, 2013

Abusive Ex Louisville Judge, Martin McDonald, reprimanded For Mishandling Of Cases.

Ex-judge reprimanded for handling of 2 Ky. cases

A former Louisville judge was publicly reprimanded Monday for what the state's Judicial Conduct Commission concluded was "reprehensible" behavior, including threatening to strangle a lawyer and refusing to allow a defendant to argue his civil case.
 
The commission unanimously found Martin McDonald guilty of two counts of misconduct in office for his handling of the death penalty appeal of Roger Dale Epperson, 63, and a civil case involving a man defending himself.

Commission Chair Stephen Wolnitzek wrote in the reprimand that because McDonald has retired and isn't hearing cases, the reprimand is the strongest available penalty.
"Were Judge McDonald still a member of the Kentucky Judiciary, a much more severe sanction, perhaps including removal from the bench, would have been warranted and would have been ordered," Wolnitzek wrote in a 12-page order.

The commission suspended McDonald in June, several months after his behavior and comments in Epperson's case came to light. McDonald was a senior judge at the time. Senior judges are retired jurists who take on appointments to hear cases in special circumstances. He retired fully a short time after the suspension.

McDonald's attorney, Timothy Denison, said the judge denies any wrongdoing. Denison also said that because McDonald has completed his term as a senior judge, the commission is not able to discipline him.

The allegations against McDonald stem from two separate, unrelated cases in Jefferson Circuit Court.
In the death penalty case, McDonald had been assigned to hear an appeal by Epperson, who is awaiting execution along with a co-defendant for the June 1985 slayings of Ed and Bessie Morris.
During the hearing on Sept. 28, McDonald addressed public defender David Barron directly, telling him that "if you ever call me on my cellphone again, I'll strangle you" and said that he would have Barron's law license "yanked" if such a call were made in the future.
McDonald then ordered that Epperson should be removed from a holding cell, saying, "bring his carcass out here."

Throughout an abbreviated hearing that was videotaped, only one witness testified. McDonald appeared disheveled and said Barron's allegations "have bordered on the ridiculous" and that he was "making a mountain out of a molehill." McDonald also referred to defense appeal attorneys as "backseat drivers" who didn't try the case.
"You've never been in the heat of battle in one of these cases, and now you're criticizing lawyers that actually are real lawyers that do the work, the dirty work, the down-in-the-trenches work," McDonald said.

In the other case, McDonald is accused of refusing to let a defendant representing himself present any argument because he wasn't a lawyer. McDonald ruled against that defendant and awarded the plaintiffs $11,000 in attorney's fees.
Wolnitzek wrote that McDonald's behavior undercut the impartiality, integrity and public confidence in the judicial system.
"Judge McDonald completely disregarded his responsibility to provide access to the court for all litigants in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and his actions in this matter were so improper as to be reprehensible," Wolnitzek wrote.

Disciplining a judge is unusual in Kentucky. In 2011-2012, the most recent time frame for which data is available, the commission concluded 274 complaints. Eight resulted in sanctions, and only one of those led to a judge being removed from office.

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