FRANKFORT — A Central Kentucky family court judge accused of judicial misconduct has been suspended for 45 days without pay and publicly reprimanded.
The Judicial Conduct Commission, the state's judicial oversight body, ruled that Judge Tamra Gormley, whose district covers Scott, Woodford and Bourbon counties, inappropriately handled two cases: a domestic violence hearing in Scott County and a child custody hearing in Woodford County.
A third count against Gormley, which stemmed from a child custody case in Scott County, was dismissed because the commission said the charge was not proven by clear and convincing evidence.
Gormley's attorney, William Hoskins of Lexington, said he reviewed the order Monday and discussed it with Gormley. Hoskins said they appreciate the commission for dismissing one charge but respectfully disagree with the findings on the other charges.
Hoskins said they are contemplating an appeal.
The commission released its ruling Friday — nearly a month after Gormley's hearing. The commission, the only entity authorized to discipline a sitting Kentucky judge, had until Feb. 19 to render a decision.
The ruling says Gormley violated a man's due process rights in a Scott County case. The commission said she held a man in contempt without advance notice and without his attorney present. Gormley did not witness the actions outside the courtroom that led to the contempt charge.
The commission said that while "a court undoubtedly has the power to hold a person in contempt of court for actions outside the sensory perception of the judge" (as was true in this situation), it "may not exercise that power without holding a hearing that provides the person with advance notice of the contempt proceeding."
On the second count, the commission found that Gormley entered a change of custody order that removed a child from the custody of her father but denied the father the right to put on his own evidence. Gormley, the commission found, acted as an advocate for the mother in that case.
Gormley's actions "were not mere legal error," the ruling says. "A reasonably prudent and competent judge would conclude the conduct of Judge Gormley to be obviously and seriously wrong in all the circumstances of the cases."
Hoskins disagreed. The commission did not cite any Kentucky law that was violated, he said, and there were no independent witnesses who testified against Gormley during the hearing on the charges.
"We truly believe Judge Gormley applied the appropriate Kentucky law and did so in good faith," he said.