"Fishface," "cokehead," "dumbo," "retarded," "coward" and "prick" — use of those words has led to the temporary suspension of a Pike County circuit judge.
The Judicial Conduct Commission temporarily suspended Steven D. Combs on Tuesday until 10 charges brought against him are resolved, according to documents released by the commission.
Combs could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Stephen Ryan, said Combs was disappointed by the suspension.
"He was a very good judge on the bench," Ryan said. "On the bench, he's fair and balanced. It is unfortunate that he's been removed temporarily."
Ryan said temporary suspension is rare, but he did not know whether it was an indication of final sanctions, which could range from a reprimand to an unpaid suspension or removal from office. The final hearing is scheduled for Sept. 21.
Stephen Wolnitzek, chairman of the Judicial Conduct Commission, said it was only the second temporary suspension issued since he joined the commission in September 1996. There would have been three, but Morgan County District Judge William Woods agreed to step aside pending a final hearing in 2000, so the suspension hearing was not necessary, Wolnitzek said.
Woods openly displayed a handgun in a court session, verbally abused people who came before him as judge, similarly mistreated court staff and other officials, and for two weeks after he lost an election, engaged in conduct that "could only be described as 'judicial tyranny,'" according to court documents. Thus the most severe discipline was warranted, the commission concluded.
The only other suspension was for Jefferson County Circuit Judge Martin McDonald, who finished his term on the day he was suspended in 2013, Wolnitzek said.
McDonald was given a public reprimand, because that was the most that could be done, Wolnitzek said. McDonald had threatened to strangle a lawyer and refused to allow a defendant to argue his civil case, the commission ruled.
Since 1984, the commission has removed only four judges from office.
Wolnitzek could not say what the outcome would be for Combs, because neither the proof of the charges nor the defense has been presented.
Combs is accused of the following:
■ Presiding over a lawsuit against a company with which Combs had a financial relationship.
■ Inappropriate communication with the Pikeville Police Department, elected officials and employees of the city of Pikeville, and the Pike TV channel manager.
■ Inappropriate political activity.
■ Inappropriate statements on the gossip website Topix under usernames including "LOL," "Better Call Wusty," "Imma Tellinyou," and "City Hall Patrol."
■ Presiding over two cases that led to misconduct in office.
■ Soliciting financial contributions for a local golf team from attorneys who appear before him.
Combs denied most of the allegations and said he disagreed with the characterization of his comments to police, according to the commission documents.
Regarding calls to the police, Combs is alleged to have said that the next officer who pulled him over would get a "bullet in the head," according to commission documents. When confronted with the statement, Combs replied, "I'm elected by the people and not pieces of trash like you-all," according to documents.
Combs admitted to leaving phone messages for state Sen. Ray Jones, a Pikeville attorney, calling Jones derogatory names.
During his suspension, Combs cannot act as judge. However, his pay will not be interrupted, according to commission documents.
Combs, who has been a judge since 2003, is paid $124,620 annually, as are all other Kentucky circuit judges, said Leigh Anne Hiatt, spokeswoman for the Administrative Office of the Courts. There are two other circuit judges in Pike County, Hiatt said.