Ky. judge who ‘exploited her judicial position to satisfy her personal desires’ removed

Administrative Office of the Courts

An Owensboro, Ky., judge accused of misusing her position to influence criminal cases that involved her adult son has been ordered removed from the bench.

The Judicial Conduct Commission, which handles allegations of misconduct by Kentucky judges, voted 6-0 to remove Family Court Judge Julie Hawes Gordon, of Daviess County.

After a three-day hearing earlier this month, the panel found that Gordon exhibited an “extensive and repeated pattern” of “exercising improper influence for her own benefit and the benefit of her son in his numerous criminal matters,” according to a 25-page order signed Friday by commission Chairman Carroll M. “Trip” Redford III.

She used “extremely poor judgment” and engaged in “profoundly unwise action – on and off the Bench – that continued for years,” the panel found.

The order removing her takes effect in 10 days, unless Gordon appeals.

Gordon was elected in 2016 to be the first family court judge in Daviess Circuit Court. She had been suspended with pay since December, following what the commission described as a “series of complaints” that continued to come to light this year.

“The misconduct allegations against Judge Gordon presented to the Commission through the complaints include serious claims of obstruction of justice, misuse and abuse of power, destruction of evidence, various improprieties as a judicial officer, bias, improper exercise of influence, retaliation, and a lack of candor to the relevant tribunals,” the commission’s order stated.

The panel said Gordon “admitted much of her misconduct” in written correspondence with the commission. They described the decision to remove her as “tragic but necessary.”

According to the order, Gordon “took actions to destroy evidence and obstruct justice” when she “cleaned up” content on her 24-year-old son Dalton Gordon’s social media accounts and cell phone in an attempt to protect him after an arrest.

She contacted the judge assigned to his case and the county attorney to try to influence bond decisions in his case, and she used her influence at the jail to get special visits with him, during which she brought in food that other inmates wouldn’t have been allowed to have.

The panel said Gordon created “conflicts of interest because of the legal representation of her son in his criminal matters by an attorney regularly appearing before her in Family Court matters,” and she didn’t disclose those conflicts or recuse herself in cases involving them.

“She bullied and threatened Cabinet workers when they did not acquiesce to her manner of conducting JDNA (Juvenile Dependency, Neglect, and Abuse) matters or when they expressed objections to her actions and rulings, and she then retaliated against them when the Cabinet and its workers defended and pushed back through normal motion practice in her court,” the commission said.

Gordon tried to fine employees of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services for filing reports late, and “she has used her position of power and ordered juvenile placements inconsistent with Cabinet recommendations. Only after the Cabinet appealed some of these orders, did she set them aside, thus avoiding a reversal,” the order stated.

She also had “arbitrary reasons” for removing attorneys or threatening to remove them from her guardian ad litem list, the order stated. A guardian ad litem is appointed by the court to represent the interests of a child in a legal proceeding.

“There is no doubt that she has brought the integrity and respect for the judiciary within Daviess County into disrepute and that her improper actions violate the Canons” of the Code of Judicial Conduct, the order removing her stated. “Arguably, the integrity and respect for the judiciary of the entire Commonwealth has been and is negatively impacted by Judge Gordon’s misconduct, particularly in light of her retaliation against the Cabinet and its workers. As part of the misconduct, Judge Gordon exploited her judicial position to satisfy her personal desires, a perniciously nefarious act and one that can rarely be explained away by a sitting judge.”

In November, her attorney told a Herald-Leader reporter that Gordon denied the “frivolous allegations” against her.