Judges

Kentucky Judge’s Behavior Questioned by Appellate Circuit

The Kentucky Court of Appeals remanded a case back to Greenup County Circuit Court, citing Supreme Court Justice-Elect Bob Conley’s behavior.

Kentucky Appeals court cites judge’s behavior in ruling

Nov 10, 2020 | Republished by LIT: 12 Nov., 2020

The Kentucky Court of Appeals remanded a case Nov. 6 back to Greenup County Circuit Court, citing Supreme Court Justice-Elect Bob Conley’s behavior.

One of the appellate judges in the decision, Jeff S. Taylor, of the Second District in western Kentucky, also sits on the Judicial Conduct Commission, which issued a public reprimand against Conley when he was running for the seat.

In the decision rendered Nov. 6, the appeals court set aside ruling by Conley to send a man to prison in December 2019 for 10 years after he allegedly violated the terms of his probation. Three appellate judges all concurred that the case should go back to Greenup in order to for a “findings of fact as required by the statue in a written order.”

Here’s the gist — in August 2019, James Burns pleaded guilty to a felony theft charge and being a persistent felony offender. With 10 years in prison hanging over his head, Burns was to serve five years of probation with the condition that he enter drug treatment.

He was to be sent to STAR Treatment Facility over in Scioto County — however, he had no living arrangements in Ohio, which meant he needed to get into treatment in Kentucky, according to the ruling.

While trying to sort out that issue, Burns’ probation officer discovered he had a warrant in Scioto County. A hearing was held in October 2019, wherein Conley ruled Burns should go over to Ohio, turn himself in on the warrant and sort out everything there.

Once getting everything settled in Ohio, Burns was to return to Greenup County and deal with the rehab issue, the decision stated.

Four days after the hearing, Conley signed an order stating Burns should report to his probation officer as soon as Ohio cut him loose. Ohio did release him on bond, which led to Burns sleeping on the porch of a Presbyterian church in Portsmouth because he couldn’t live with a convicted felon or a drug user, according to the ruling.

When Burns failed to report to his probation officer in Kentucky, the officer filed a violation against him, the ruling stated.

After communications between some of the church’s members and the PO, Burns returned to Greenup in November 2019 and turned himself in.

That’s what led to the Dec. 12, 2019, hearing at the center of the ruling.

According to the ruling, Burns requested to appeal directly to the judge to explain his side of things. He said he didn’t have a copy of the order the judge signed, so he didn’t know he had to report to Greenup after Scioto released him.

The ruling states Conley “visibly lost patience, demanding, ‘Is there ever an end to this testimony?’”

“Your hands are too dirty, your hands are too dirty. You got too many things going on in too many different states. You’ve got too many cases, active cases. Now, I tried to do you a favor and let you leave here to go over there and take care of that, and then come back so we could get this thing resolved, but you didn’t do that. You go find a place to live and try to get counseling services at this Presbyterian church instead of coming back here and taking care of your business here. Now I don’t, you may have had a good reason, because maybe that’s what your bonding agent was telling you over there,” Conley is quoted in the ruling.

The ruling states Conley proceeded to slam his hand on the bench and screamed, “I don’t give a damn about your bonding agent over there. I don’t care about that.”

“All I care about is you taking care of this case in my court per our agreement you violated. You didn’t come back. You were out two weeks, you were out two weeks. You were supposed to, when you got released from Ohio, to come back here. That’s what you agreed to do. You agreed when they released you from Scioto County, you were going to come back here, we were going to resolve this case and, heck, we were even going to run it in the same time, we just wanted to see you get services.

“But no, you don’t do that, you do your own thing, you let someone else tell you what to do, instead of doing what I told you to do. I can’t help a guy that won’t help himself and agree to do what he agreed to do with me. So I don’t give a damn about your Ohio stuff anymore, because you don’t give a damn about my stuff,” Conley said, per the ruling.

Conley then signed an order revoking the probation.

Sentenced to prison, Burns filed an appeal — the appeals court sided with him, finding Conley “did not make any specific written or oral findings of fact addressing the criteria of KRS 439.3106(1) at the revocation hearing.”

“It only found — peremptorily, profanely and dyspeptically — that Burns had violated the conditions of his probation,” the ruling stated.

Conley could not be reached for this report.

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