Kentucky allows judges eight years of on-the-job training before they have to face voters for re-election.
Although Fayette Family Court Judge John Schrader has learned and improved, he also has made mistakes that are so troubling we cannot endorse him for another eight-year term.
Prior to winning his first election in 2006, Schrader had a legal practice concentrated on real estate, mainly representing landlords in disputes with tenants. He was unprepared for his duties as a family court judge and proceeded to prove it.
By the end of his first four years, at least two complaints had been filed against him with the Judicial Conduct Commission.
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One, by then-Fayette Family Court Judge Jo Ann Wise, cited his "hostility to women and obsession with sex." The other, by the head of the Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts, cited "substantial evidence" that his statements and behavior were upsetting other employees.
Current Fayette County Attorney Larry Roberts stopped sending female attorneys from his office into Schrader's status court because of his offensive behavior and statements.
Among Schrader's questionable actions, he once ordered a coat hanger brought to the courtroom so a domestic violence victim could demonstrate how she had been beaten and he demanded graphic details from a woman who said she had been the victim of marital rape.
In an interview with the editorial board, Schrader said he has learned from early mistakes and will not repeat them, but overall defended his record against the allegations in Wise's complaint. Some lawyers who practice in his court say he has become a conscientious judge who is scrupulous about following the law, though he sometimes drags out cases, adding to the cost and stress for families.
Schrader presides over the year-old Fayette Veterans Treatment Court, the second such court in the state, where veterans charged with crimes can choose a rigorous 18-month rehab regimen in lieu of jail. Sixteen veterans are currently participating. Schrader is to be commended for taking on this extra and valuable duty.
Challenger Traci Boyd has practiced in family court for 13 years and knows the law. She has an undergraduate degree in psychology and a law degree from the University of Kentucky. She teaches continuing-education classes in family law areas and has served on several boards of non-profits serving children and families.
She is the better choice for the post considering all the misgivings surrounding the incumbent.
The complaints against Schrader, filed in 2010 and 2011, became public through an anonymous Internet site, Badjudgelexington.wordpress.com.
Unfortunately, the deep secrecy surrounding complaints about Kentucky judges blocks voters from knowing how Schrader defended himself, any results of the investigation into the complaints, if Schrader was disciplined or penalized in any way or cleared.
The public's lack of information about how these allegations were resolved is just the latest example of why the process for resolving complaints against judges in Kentucky should be opened to greater public view.
The unendorsed candidate may submit a 250-word response by noon Friday.