Judge agrees to 2-week suspension without pay


By Bruce Schreiner - Associated Press



LOUISVILLE (AP) — A Kentucky judge who let a woman sit in jail for more than two months without setting bond or holding a hearing on her contempt of court arrest has been suspended for two weeks without pay, a judicial disciplinary commission said Tuesday.

Judge Vernon Miniard Jr. waived formal proceedings in his disciplinary matter and agreed to the 14-day suspension without pay, which he’ll serve in December, the state’s Judicial Conduct Commission said.

Miniard is chief circuit judge in a district spanning Russell and Wayne counties in southern Kentucky.

The commission’s order, dated last Friday but announced Tuesday, said Miniard violated judicial canons by allowing Christy D. Cooper-Stinson to be incarcerated from Aug. 26 until Nov. 2 of last year without setting bond or holding a hearing on the contempt allegation.

Miniard, a former prosecutor who’s been on the bench nearly 13 years, took responsibility for the violations.

“You get busy and sometimes things slip by you,” he said in a phone interview. “I’m not going to make any excuse.”

The conduct commission’s chairman, Stephen Wolnitzek, said the judge fully cooperated during the review.

“He didn’t try and sugarcoat it,” Wolnitzek said in an interview. “He basically said, ‘I made a mistake.’”

“It was refreshing that Judge Miniard did not say it was somebody else’s fault,” he added.

The commission said Miniard violated a trio of ethics standards, including “failing to accord every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding the right to be heard.” The judge also failed to maintain high standards of conduct and failed to act in a manner that promotes public confidence in the judiciary, it said.

The commission’s order also noted that Miniard had no prior infractions and had pledged not to repeat the conduct.

The matter arose in August 2015 while Miniard presided over a drug case in Wayne County.

Prosecutors told Miniard that a subpoena had been issued for Cooper-Stinson in the case. She was to be a witness in the criminal drug case.

Officers had been unable to serve her and believed she was intentionally attempting to avoid being served, according to the commission’s order. The prosecution then requested a material witness warrant for Cooper-Stinson’s arrest, it said.

After hearing testimony from law officers, Minion issued the warrant for Cooper-Stinson’s arrest for contempt of court, it said.

Miniard will begin serving his suspension on Dec. 17, the commission’s order said. The commission worked out the timing to avoid causing a backup of cases, Wolnitzek said.

“It was so hectic from now until then,” Miniard said. “That’s when it slows down some.”

By Bruce Schreiner

Associated Press

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