Ethics panel charges Kentucky judge asked staffers to ‘blatantly violate the law.’

Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

A Kentucky judge facing ethics charges that include using his office to pressure people for campaign donations has been accused of intimidating witnesses.

The state Judicial Conduct Commission filed additional charges this week against James T. Jameson, circuit judge for Marshall and Calloway counties in Western Kentucky, including one related to security video footage of him walking through the judicial center early one morning in his underwear.

The commission initially issued four ethics charges against Jameson, with several alleged violations related to a home-incarceration program.

Those alleged violations included that Jameson used his influence to get a specific vendor chosen for the program, hindered the competitive bidding process, told police to arrest home-incarceration violators without waiting for a proper arrest warrant and ordered people into the program even though fees from it supported a substance-use disorder treatment program the judge was spearheading.

Jameson also allegedly only allowed people that he ordered into the home-incarceration program to choose one company’s ankle monitor, even though other monitoring services were available.

People on home incarceration pay a fee for monitoring.

The commission also charged that Jameson required people to participate in a particular drug-treatment program because he had a connection with it, pressured an attorney to file a complaint against another attorney, mismanaged his courtroom, showed bias against some attorneys and retaliated against a sheriff’s deputy he believed had leaked video footage to the media.

Finally, the commission charged that Jameson used the power of his office to pressure people for political contributions, “going as far as saying that certain monetary contributions were not sufficient.”

The commission said Jameson violated a long list of ethics provisions, including rules requiring judges to follow the law, avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety, not abuse the prestige of the office to advance the economic interests of the judge or others and perform judicial duties impartially.

‘Purely manufactured’

The commission also charged that Jameson violated other provisions and rules that require judges to not take part in activities that would appear to a reasonable person to undermine the judge’s independence, integrity or impartiality.

In a response to the allegations, Jameson strongly disputed all the allegations of wrongdoing, saying they were based on “biased, misrepresented, and, in some cases, purely manufactured information” being pushed by people who want to damage him politically.

Jameson’s attorney said he had never received any fees from the home-incarceration program, shown bias against anyone in court, pressured anyone to donate to his campaign or retaliated against anyone.

Jameson has tried diligently to improve access to drug treatment in the community and serve the public, sometimes working into the early-morning hours and spending the rest of the night in his office, said his attorney, Richard L. Walter.

“No one that knows him would consider Judge Jameson anything other than an honest public official who has worked hard to ensure that justice is delivered the same for everyone that comes through the court he serves,” Walter wrote in response to the ethics charges.

However, the commission voted in August to suspend Jameson with pay until the charges are resolved.

That led to the additional charges released this week for allegedly violating the terms of the suspension.

Jameson was not supposed to access or use court resources during the suspension.

‘Blatantly violate the law’

Despite that, Jameson contacted the state Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) and asked the agency to not comply with a subpoena from the Judicial Conduct Commission for records about him, and told his administrative support specialist and staff attorney to remove boxes from his office and not give the commission any documents, according to the new charges.

“In short, you instructed your judicial staff to blatantly violate the law and to further act in contradiction to their duties and responsibilities as AOC employees,” the ethics panel said.

Jameson has also continued to use his judicial email account, had contact with his staff and requested documents he had no access to under his suspension, the commission said.

The commission added two new charges against Jameson on Oct. 4 and followed with a seventh charge on Friday.

The latest charge says that after Jameson learned there had been an open-records request for security footage of the courthouse, he called the manager of the public radio station at Murray State University — whom he believed was involved in the request — and said the university president was not happy about the request.

Jameson asked the manager to confirm “that the news station was not going to run a story about the camera footage of you walking around in the courthouse in your underwear,” the charge says.

The commission alleged that action violated a rule that bars a judge from abusing the prestige of the office to advance his or her personal interests.

In hie earlier response to the commission, Jameson’s attorney referred to an incident in which Jameson worked until 3 a.m. one day and then slept in his office for a couple of hours, until his wife called about 6:30 a.m. and said she and their children were outside the back door of the building so the children could see him.

Jameson, operating on little sleep, “stumbled down” to see his family. The courthouse normally would have been deserted at that time, but that morning, a cleaning person was in and saw the judge, according to the response.

The cleaning person later told court workers that Jameson had been dressed inappropriately.

He was presumably joking about the situation, but a deputy clerk took it as an opportunity to try to hurt Jameson and told a security officer about, who pulled video of the incident in violation of AOC policy, the response said.

Jameson’s attorney said the judge strongly disputes the new charges levied this week.

If the commission decides Jameson is guilty of ethics violations, it could impose range of penalties, from a private reprimand to removing him from office.