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County seeks another judge in suit by jailer

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Chief Justice denies new judge in first case

By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - The decision on who will preside over a lawsuit between the Bullitt County jailer and several governmental entities will be decided by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.

For a second time in as many weeks, an affidavit has been filed seeking Chief Justice John Minton Jr. to assign a new judge to hear cases involving Bullitt Circuit Judge Rodney Burress.

Both cases involve the home incarceration program, county attorney Monica Robinson and sheriff David Greenwell.

The latest case also involved jailer Martha Knox, who has filed suit against Bullitt Fiscal Court, Robinson and Greenwell for removing the home incarceration program from her facility.

In that case, attorney Eric Farris filed a motion seeking injunctive relief for Knox.

That asks for a temporary return of HIP to the jail from the sheriff’s office until the matter could be litigated.

Before that matter could be argued, attorney Carol Petitt, representing fiscal court, Robinson and Greenwell, filed a motion for Burress to disqualify from hearing the case.

Burress went through each basis cited by Petitt for his recusal.

First, it was alleged that Burress refused to hear arguments on Robinson’s motion to alter, amend or vacate his order involving Misty Thompson.

In that case, Thompson was ordered to participate in HIP as part of her final sentencing on four felony cases.

Under the order, she was to serve 180 days on HIP.

In reviewing the request by Thompson’s attorney, Kara Lewis, Burress declared the defendant was indigent and he waived the daily home incarceration fees.

In Burress’ final order in response to the Nov. 8 hearing, the judge wrote that Thompson was rejected by the sheriff’s department to be a participant in the HIP.

After preparing a sentencing order for the sheriff’s department, Thompson again returned to report for HIP.

Again, she was rejected .

At that point, Robinson filed a motion asking Burress to revisit the order for home incarceration.

It was during an emergency hearing on Friday, Oct. 25, that Robinson claimed that she was not allowed to make arguments.

Burress said during the Nov. 8 that Robinson was able to make arguments on various issues. If he was biased or did not wish to listen, a hearing would not have been set on Nov. 1.

“No one was denied a hearing,” Burress wrote.

The judge said Robinson was present and acknowledged the need for a hearing. On the Oct. 25 docket, that hearing was held after a final sentencing and before a previously scheduled hearing.

The second concern raised by Petitt was that Burress ordered an investigation into who decided to release Thompson  without admitting her into HIP, which he said was in total disregard of a court order.

In his final order, Burress admitted that he did order the commonwealth attorney’s office to investigate the events involving the release of a felon.

But he said that it was not true that he accuses Robinson of any criminal activity.

In reviewing the videoed court hearing, Burress said there was no incident of him accusing the county attorney of a crime.

He said he needed more details as to what happened in the release of the inmate.

“This Court had not only a right but it also had an obligation to the citizens of this state to preserve and protect the integrity of the judicial system by seeking to determine why, and on whose order, the defendant was released,” Burress wrote.

During the hearing, Burress told attorneys that he didn’t know who did what and that is why the investigated was requested.

The final complaint issued in Petitt’s motion was that Burress was bias when he placed Thompson on a home incarceration program provided by the jail.

Burress said he was perplexed what bias was shown by placing Thompson into HIP.

On two occasions, Burress said the defendant was rejected by the county’s program.

During the original hearing, Robinson said that Thompson was not eligible for the county’s HIP.

Under the HIP system approved by fiscal court two months ago, fees are attached to the program. The participant must also apply in advance if seeking any indigent relief.

Robinson told Burress that the county taxpayers could not absorb the costs if a person could not pay.

The judge wrote that unless the county had a program Thompson would be eligible for, the defendant shall be under the supervision of the county jailer.

Burress ruled that on all three counts, he overruled motions for disqualification due to his bias or prejudice.

However, when presented with the affidavit from the defendants, Burress said all events would be held in abeyance until the Chief Justice makes a ruling.

In the complaint filed by Knox, she is seeking the return of HIP back to her supervision.

After complaints were raised about the monitoring or lack of monitoring of those on HIP by the jail staff, Bullitt Fiscal Court voted to move it to the sheriff’s office.

Along with the relocation, the court approved new fees, of which a certain percentage would not go to the sheriff’s office, the county attorney’s office and the vendor of the HIP equipment.

The county would still receive a share of the revenue.

In Farris’ filing, he argued that fiscal court did not have the authority to move the program and that it is an operation that should be handled by the corrections cabinet.

He also argued that the person who is assisting to recommend people to HIP would also benefit financially.

Chief Justice denies new judge in first case

FRANKFORT - On Tuesday morning, Chief Justice John Minton ruled that he would deny a motion seeking a new judge in the case involving Misty Thompson.

Minton ruled that Bullitt Fiscal Court and the sheriff’s office “failed to demonstrate any disqualifying circumstance that would require the appointment of a special judge under Kentucky Revised Statutes (KRS) 26A.020.

No ruling has been given in the lawsuit involving jailer Martha Knox against various county offices.