Editorials

Judge’s reputation unfairly tarnished

A Republican lawmaker from Louisville says Republicans are worried they can’t get a fair call from Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd after he blocked Gov. Matt Bevin’s upending of the University of Louisville Board of Trustees.

In an op-ed in The Courier-Journal, Rep. Jerry T. Miller — an accountant, former Louisville council member and first-term lawmaker — lays out a bill of particulars to support his assertion that Shepherd ruled against Republican Bevin because of partisanship.

In doing so, Miller conveniently overlooks a few facts that fair-minded readers will find pertinent, such as Shepherd’s 2012 ruling overturning House Democrats’ redistricting plan in a challenge brought by House Republicans.

Or the time Shepherd denied Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes’ request to order the Republican Party of Kentucky to stop distributing a misleading mailer in 2014.

Miller also neglected to mention that Shepherd rejected the Democratic Beshear administration’s settlement with coal companies accused of falsifying water-pollution reports. Or, how, over the strenuous objections of the same Democratic administration, Shepherd granted citizens groups status as intervenors in that case, an order the Democratic administration fought all the way to the state Supreme Court, which upheld Shepherd’s decision.

In 2014, Shepherd rejected Beshear administration attempts to keep information about how the state assesses taxes confidential.

Shepherd gave the Beshear administration major heartburn in the prolonged fight to open state records of fatal child abuse and neglect cases. Shepherd repeatedly rejected the administration’s confidentiality claims and imposed a $756,000 penalty to be paid to this newspaper and The Courier-Journal for withholding public records; the state finally agreed to pay $250,000 plus the newspapers’ attorney’s fees.

Miller’s accusation that Shepherd’s impartiality as a judge is tainted by political partisanship probably says more about what motivates Miller than anything else.

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