Fayette Family Court Judge Timothy Philpot was publicly reprimanded Monday by a state judicial oversight body for requiring couples with children to participate in special hearings to determine whether a marriage was broken. Couples without children didn’t have to participate in such hearings.
The state Judicial Conduct Commission released an order Monday that said Philpot also provided, to an unnamed third party, facts about cases before him that weren’t part of the public record. That third party used the information for “independent research and teaching duties.”
Philpot waived formal proceedings and cooperated with the investigation. His punishment was the public reprimand.
Philpot said on Monday that he will now hold hearings for all couples who wish to divorce, not just those with children. The reprimand was not for holding the hearings, but for only requiring the hearings for couples with children.
Philpot said the state statue requires Kentucky courts conduct a hearing to determine if the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
“I am pleased that the Judicial Conduct Commission has publicly affirmed that hearings to determine whether a marriage is ‘irretrievably broken’ are permitted under Kentucky law for every divorce, not just those with minor children,” Philpot said.
The commission found that Philpot violated three judicial canons: one that prohibits a judge from using the office to advance the private interests of others, one that requires judges to perform his or her duties of judicial office fairly and impartially, and one that prohibits judges from disclosing or using nonpublic information.
In 2016, Philpot wrote a novel, “Judge Z: Irretrievably Broken,” about a judge who orders a controversial hearing to slow down the divorce of a couple with young children in the hope that they will reconcile.
Philpot told the Herald-Leader in a June 2016 article that he had recently begun short informal “irretrievably broken hearings” in divorce cases involving children. He has been a judge since 2004.