Circuit judge for Wayne, Russell counties suspended by ethics panel

A state panel has suspended a circuit judge for Wayne and Russell counties in response to an ethics complaint.

Circuit Judge Vernon D. Miniard agreed to an unpaid 14-day suspension from Dec. 17 to Dec. 30, according to an order issued Tuesday by the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission.

The complaint relates to a criminal trial last August, the commission said.

The prosecutor had issued a subpoena for a witness named Christy D. Cooper-Stinson to appear at the trial but reported that police had been unable to serve the subpoena and suspected that she was intentionally trying to evade them, the order said.

After taking testimony from officers, Miniard issued an arrest warrant for contempt of court for Cooper-Stinson.

Police arrested her on Aug. 26 and she was jailed until Nov. 2, without Miniard ever appointing a lawyer for her, setting bond or holding a hearing on the contempt charge, the commission said.

The commission concluded Miniard violated three ethics standards: failing to maintain high standards and uphold the integrity and independence of the judiciary; failing to comply with the law and act in a way that promotes public confidence in the integrity of the judiciary; and failing to accord every person with a legal interest in a court proceeding the right to be heard.

Miniard said in an interview that he had made a mistake and was sorry. The incident did not result from any malicious intent toward the woman, he said.

“You get covered up, and it just slipped by,” Miniard said. “I try to be as fair as I can be.”

In setting the suspension, the commission took into account that Miniard cooperated in the inquiry, had no previous infractions and pledged not to repeat the conduct, according to the order.