A circuit judge in the Morehead area violated several ethics rules and deserved to be removed from office, the Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission said in an order issued Thursday.
The commission issued a public reprimand against Beth Lewis Maze. That was the most the commission could do because Maze retired effective Oct. 27.
If she had still been on the bench, the commission would have removed her, its order said.
The commission said it was disturbing that Maze didn’t appreciate how badly she hurt the reputation of the court system by issuing inappropriate orders to benefit her ex-husband, Donald “Champ” Maze, after he was arrested.
“All too often members of the public believe there are two systems of justice: one for those who have friends and one for those who do not. Judge Maze, by her actions, gives credence to the belief that for those who have connections a different justice system exists,” the commission said in a sharply worded order.
Beth Maze was circuit judge for Rowan, Bath, Montgomery and Menifee counties.
The allegations against her started after police stopped Champ Maze on Interstate 64 in September 2017 and arrested him on several charges, including possession of drugs.
Champ Maze served three terms as Bath County attorney before going to federal prison in a vote-buying case from the 2006 election.
After his drug arrest, Beth Maze contacted other officials about the arrest and issued orders allowing him to get a drug test. The commission said that was improper because of their relationship.
Another issue was that Maze signed the documents in a way that indicated prosecutors had seen and agreed to them, but they hadn’t.
The commission filed charges alleging Maze committed misconduct and broke a number of ethics rules.
Those included requirements for judges to uphold the integrity and independence of the court system, to promote confidence that the judicial system is impartial, and to not use the prestige of the office to promote private interests.
Maze also was charged with having improper contact with a member of the commission after it filed charges against her.
Maze agreed to a suspension with pay in September 2018.
However, she argued she’d done nothing wrong. On signing orders to let her husband get a drug test, for instance, she said she believed that was necessary to preserve evidence in the case.
And on saying other court officials had seen and agreed to the orders, Maze said she did that inadvertently, thinking the form was a different one, and wasn’t trying to deceive anyone.
The commission didn’t believe her, pointing out that another judge was available to set a bond and sign orders for Champ Maze to get a drug test if needed.
It also said Champ Maze was able to get out of jail on bond and receive a drug test on his own in time to use it in his case.
Most people charged with drug possession don’t get the privilege of personal access to a judge and don’t get a ride from the jailer instead of going to jail, the commission said.
It also said her explanation on signing the names of other official on forms “rings hollow,” in part because the forms look significantly different.
Also, Maze did not enter them into the court record, which the commission took as further evidence of improper motive.
“The public relies on the integrity, fairness and candor of every Judge. When a Judge lacks those qualities, the promise of equal justice under the law is a myth,” the commission said.
Maze’s attorney, Thomas E. Clay, said Maze disputes the findings and will appeal the commission’s order to the Kentucky Supreme Court to try to get it overturned.