Family court judge Gormley is accused again of judicial misconduct

gormley's visitation bans questioned

shopkins@herald-leader.comNovember 20, 2010 

A family court judge who was reprimanded and suspended about a year ago has been accused again of judicial misconduct, according to a notice by the state's Judicial Conduct Commission.

A hearing on charges against Judge Tamra Gormley, whose district covers Scott, Woodford and Bourbon counties, is scheduled for Jan. 12 in Fayette Circuit Court.

The commission, the state's judicial oversight body, charged Gormley with keeping parents with drug problems from their children without having appropriate hearings. And the commission charged Gormley with failing to recuse herself from a custody case after the state's Court of Appeals ruled Rowan County was the appropriate venue.

Gormley, in a response, requested that all charges be dismissed.

In the notice dated Sept. 22, the commission said Gormley entered orders in all three of her counties, prohibiting parents with drug problems from contact with their children until they had four successive weeks of clean drug screens.

In some cases, the orders extended over several months, the commission said.

The commission said Gormley failed to hold hearings regarding the circumstances and failed to show conduct that would constitute neglect or abuse. The commission said Gormley made no attempt to determine whether measures were available for limited contact, such as contact through e-mail, telephone or supervised visitation.

"This practice is detrimental to the relationship between parents and children and such orders are not authorized by law," the commission's notice said.

In a response, Gormley said the charge was without merit based on the review of more than 35 hours of taped cases by a commission expert, retired Judge Douglas M. Stephens.

Gormley said Stephens did not find any judicial misconduct in regard to no-contact orders. Stephens said in a report that Gormley's failure, if there was a failure, to provide clear finding of fact on the record to support no-contact orders appeared to be no more than an erroneous decision made in good faith.

Gormley, in her response, said erroneous decisions made in good faith were not subject to the jurisdiction of the commission.

The commission also said Gormley failed to recuse herself from a custody case during a hearing on March 11 in Woodford Family Court after the Court of Appeals ruled Rowan County was the appropriate forum.

The commission said Gormley failed to take action until after she received a letter from the commission dated July 12. A special judge was appointed to the case on Aug. 25.

"Notably, the commission does not take any issue with Judge Gormley's decision to recuse herself or the appointment of a special judge," the judge's response said.

The response said the only issue raised was whether Gormley acted quickly enough.

"Judge Gormley acted appropriately in recusing herself and her conduct was not in violation of the Code of Judicial Conduct," the response said.

In November 2009, the commission ruled that Gormley inappropriately handled cases, including a domestic violence hearing in Scott County and a child custody hearing in Woodford County. She was reprimanded and suspended for 45 days without pay.

Gormley appealed the suspension, which was upheld by the Kentucky Supreme Court. However, she asked the court to reconsider the case a few months ago, and she has not served the suspension, one of her attorneys, Jay Ingle, said.

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