Politics & Government

Allegations of harassment, ethics violations made in race for Fayette Family Court judge

Judge John Schrader and family law attorney Traci Boyd
Judge John Schrader and family law attorney Traci Boyd

The race for family court judge in Fayette County's second division has gotten as ugly as a bitter divorce, including charges of sexual harassment, leaked documents and alleged ethics violations.

Family law attorney Traci Boyd said she's running against Judge John Schrader because he's too slow in making his rulings and has outdated views on custody and domestic violence.

Schrader, in return, has accused Boyd's campaign manager, Colby Khoshreza, of creating a website, Badjudgelexington.wordpress.com, that contains documents about accusations made against Schrader in 2010 and 2011. Those allegations include sexual harassment and inappropriate courtroom behavior with witnesses and attorneys.

Khoshreza denies Schrader's claim.

Boyd also denies any knowledge of the website but freely admits she doesn't like Schrader's style.

""It's very personal to me," said Boyd, who has practiced family law for the past 14 years. "I have a lot of clients. I feel like they've been treated very poorly. I don't like the way he practices from the bench."

Schrader, who helped pilot the Fayette Veterans Treatment Court to try to keep veterans out of prison with treatment alternatives, declined to be interviewed by the Herald-Leader. Instead, he provided a lengthy written statement defending his record and explaining why he thought Khoshreza was the website's creator.

"After making thousands of rulings over the past eight years, I have only been reversed on appeal five times," he wrote. "Nobody is perfect; it is for this reason we have an appellate court. However, those five cases reinforce my personal resolution to do my very best to make correct rulings in each and every case. I make no apologies for taking extraordinary care, and the time necessary, to fairly uphold the laws of the commonwealth and the United States; it is what I am sworn to do."

Boyd singled out two particular concerns she has about Schrader: what she called his unwillingness to consider equal-time custody between parents, and his treatment of domestic violence cases.

"He's very pro-man when it comes to domestic violence and he's very pro-mother when it comes to timeshare cases," she said.

Those issues came up in a letter from former Fayette Family Court Judge Jo Ann Wise in 2010, one of the documents found on the website.

Wise wrote to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Minton and the Judicial Conduct Commission to report a hostile work environment in Schrader's courtroom. Earlier that month, family court administrator Beth Combs had requested not to do any work for Schrader because he made her feel uncomfortable.

Wise wrote that the Fayette County Attorney no longer sent female attorneys into Schrader's status court because of "his behavior and statements."

"Judge Schrader's hostility toward women and obsession with sex is pervasive and has been obvious since he took the bench," Wise wrote.

Wise, who now lives in Tennessee, declined to comment for this story.

Combs, who no longer works in the courthouse, could not be reached for comment.

In February 2011, Laurie Dudgeon, director of the Administrative Office of the Courts, or AOC, referred Schrader's case to the Judicial Conduct Commission because an AOC investigation had found there "is substantial evidence that certain persons working in/or around Judge Schrader have experienced, at minimum, times when they have been uncomfortable, upset and or concerned over comments he has made and behavior he has exhibited during court proceedings which the affected employees felt were inappropriate and hindered their ability to work."

Most decisions made by the commission are kept confidential. Schrader said in his statement to the Herald-Leader that the matter was "privately resolved."

In August, Schrader also reported Boyd to a regulatory group, the Judicial Campaign Conduct Committee, a nonprofit group that tries to regulate judicial behavior in elections.

The committee concluded it could not find any evidence that contradicted Boyd's testimony that neither she nor any of her campaign workers had created the website about Schrader.

Anita Britton, a veteran family law attorney who said she liked Schrader and Boyd, said she thought the tenor of the campaign was a result of higher court rulings that have loosened what candidates are allowed to say in judicial elections.

"You used to have to be very measured in anything that you said," Britton said. "It seems to me this is a new age of campaigning in these judicial races, and I don't know that it reflects well on any of us."