Judicial conduct commission releases report against 2 judges

Published 12:00 pm Friday, March 3, 2023

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The Kentucky Judicial Conduct Commission on Thursday released its reports in cases involving disciplinary action against two sitting judges, a circuit judge in western Kentucky and a district judge in northern Kentucky.

A public reprimand was issued against Christian County Circuit Judge John L. Atkins, after finding that he improperly contacted a police officer who was the alleged victim of an assault, in a case where prosecutors had recommended dismissal of the charge.

In a separate incident, Atkins was the subject of a complaint that while the jury was deliberating a case of alleged child abuse at a church daycare, he went to the gallery and spoke to the victim’s family and church members who were watching the trial. The suspect was one of four people charged with abuse, and two of the other suspects were successful in having Atkins recuse from their cases. He refused to do the same in the ongoing trial but was later removed from the case by the Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court.

Atkins waived formal proceedings and agreed to the public reprimand.

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The other case involved Kenton County District Judge Ann Ruttle, who agreed to a two-week unpaid suspension, regarding a request for appointment of an attorney by a defendant in her court who was facing a criminal traffic charge.

According to the Commission, Ruttle denied appointment of counsel for a defendant at that person’s initial court appearance, without making the necessary review of that defendant’s indigent status, as required under state law.

The Commission noted that a review of felony arraignments in Ruttle’s court indicated this was not an isolated incident.

Ruttle was ordered to be suspended without pay from May 8 to May 23. She will be banned from using her judicial office, and from access to the Kenton County Judicial Center during that time.