The Judicial Conduct Commission has filed an extensive “notice of formal proceedings” against Daviess Family Judge Julie Hawes Gordon, alleging Gordon misused her position to benefit her adopted son, who was facing criminal charges.
The JCC document alleges Gordon also mismanaged her courtroom and arbitrarily required people before the court to take drug tests, using untrained staff to conduct the tests.
The notice alleges Gordon used her influence to attempt to get her adopted son reenrolled in the Boulware Mission’s drug treatment program, and ordered a staff member to have Boulware residents appearing before her immediately drug tested when Boulware refused her demands. The document says Gordon allegedly used her position and “ordered juvenile placements that were inconsistent with Cabinet (for Health and Family Services) recommendations.”
In a response, Gordon denies the allegations. Meanwhile, some officials that the JCC complaint says Gordon tried to influence on her son’s behalf said Tuesday they did not feel they were being pressured by her.
“Judge Gordon continues to strenuously deny the frivolous allegations brought against her and looks forward to resolution of this matter by the Judicial Conduct Commission,” Gordon’s attorney, R. Kent Westberry, said in a prepared statement.
Gordon did not return calls for comment Tuesday afternoon, and Westberry said Gordon would not be available to answer any questions beyond the prepared statement.
The complaint was filed by Megan Jackson, who worked in Family Court Judge John McCarty’s office until March of this year. McCarty, who was appointed the county’s second Family judge by the state Supreme Court, announced he was retiring from the Family Court bench over the summer and has since left the office.
When asked about filing the complaint, Jackson said, “I wanted the people of this community to know what was going on and who they were voting for. She’s a powerful person.”
The JCC is part of the state court system, with the authority to investigate complaints against judges and impose sanctions against judges who have engaged in misconduct. While the investigation process is confidential, the charges become public record when the JCC initiates a formal proceeding
The charges are lengthy, with some of the charges stemming from alleged attempts by Gordon to help her adopted son, Dalton Gordon, who has a previous criminal history, including convictions for theft by unlawful taking (firearm), theft of a controlled substance under $10,000, fraudulent use of a credit card and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle.
The JCC document says in March 2020, Judge Gordon told Dalton Gordon she had worked out a plea deal in his case and “spoke with the presiding judge in the case and discussed (her) recommendations for Dalton’s release on bond.” The document says Gordon “contacted County Attorney Claud Porter to influence his position on Dalton’s bond status and the resolution of Dalton’s criminal charges.”
Later, the document says Gordon “often did not attempt to contact Dalton’s attorney, and instead you used your influence as Family Court Judge to personally affect the bond decisions of Mr. Porter and the presiding judge.”
The document alleges Gordon had “taken actions to destroy evidence and obstruct justice” by deleting items from his phone and social media accounts. The JCC alleges Gordon placed two children in the care of Friends of Sinners director Joe Welsh at the same time she was “orchestrating plans for getting Dalton out of jail and into Friends of Sinners.”
Regarding courtroom procedures, the JCC alleged Gordon ordered drug tests conducted by court staff “who were not properly trained to conduct such testing.”
“The criteria for whom to drug test has been arbitrary,” the JCC document says. Also, children were required to be at court in most cases involving children, sometimes as late as 12:30 a.m. Court sometimes ran “for unreasonable lengths of time” into the late hours of the evening, the JCC document says.
Gordon allegedly also controlled which attorneys were appointed Guardians ad Litem to cases and favored some attorneys, the JCC said. Guardians at Litem are court-appointed to child cases and are paid by the state.
Those Guardians ad Litem included the attorney representing Dalton Gordon in some of his criminal cases and an attorney at Gordon Goetz Johnson Caldwell, where Gordon’s husband, Sale Gordon, is an attorney.
The JCC alleges Gordon abused her power and exceeded her authority by attempting to impose fines on Cabinet for Health and Family Services workers who filed late reports, “attempted to require the Cabinet to fund horseback riding lessons for a juvenile, despite it being outside the Cabinet’s scope of funding,” and “ordered juvenile placements that were inconsistent with Cabinet recommendations.”
The JCC alleges Gordon “demonstrated a lack of candor and misrepresented material facts” during the JCC investigation. The document also says Gordon had a conflict of interest by having Dalton Gordon’s attorney, Clay Wilkey, practice in her court as a Guardian ad Litem. The document says Gordon told Dalton Gordon she was paying Wilkey to handle his criminal case.
The JCC document also alleges Gordon filed a complaint against her fellow Family Judge, John McCarty in April, “as a retaliatory measure.”
Of the complaint, Jackson said, “my only regret is I didn’t do it sooner.”
Some of the allegations are disputed by the people involved.
County Attorney Claud Porter, for example, said Tuesday he felt Gordon acted like any other parent of a child with a pending criminal case when she spoke with him.
“All the other family members could, and do, the same,” Porter said. “I’m not in a position where (Gordon) can influence what I do. I represent the commonwealth.”
The document also says Gordon would call sheriff’s deputies with issues about Dalton Gordon, rather than calling 911.
Major Barry Smith, chief deputy for the sheriff’s office, said Gordon’s calls were “probably no different than any other mother calling and asking about someone’s case. If she had asked for any special treatment, it would have been different.”
While Gordon wouldn’t comment Tuesday, Westberry did provide the JCC with a response to its allegations.
Regarding Dalton Gordon and his court cases, Westberry wrote Judge Gordon has rights under “Marsy’s Law,” the victim’s bill of rights passed by lawmakers earlier this year. Marsy’s Law gives victims of crime the right to be heard in every step of their perpetrator’s case. Dalton’s legal fees were paid by Gordon’s husband, not Gordon, Westberry wrote.
Gordon was the victim in the case, Westberry said, and said her rights “are not diminished by judicial canons.” Regarding erasing items from Dalton’s phone and social media, Westberry wrote she deleted “embarrassing and inappropriate material” to protect his younger siblings from seeing them, but said the police had already had access to Dalton’s phone when they arrested him, so “Judge Gordon did not intend or perceive that she was deleting anything the police did not already have.”
Westberry said Gordon did not want Dalton to return to Boulware Mission, and only began drug testing Boulware residents before her when “the director of Boulware informed Judge Gordon that his facility did not drug test,” and wrote Gordon “became concerned that litigants in treatment there needed to be tested when they appeared in her Court.” Court staff, Westberry wrote, are no long conducting drug testing.
Gordon vacated orders she imposed on Cabinet for Health and Family Services workers that she “incorrectly imposed ... and has not made that mistake again,” Westberry wrote.
Gordon denied she gave any favoritism to any attorney when appointing Guardians as Litem.
Gordon also denied she made a JCC complaint against Judge John McCarty out or retaliation, Westberry wrote, and wrote “to the contrary, it is Judge Gordon who is being retaliated against for complaining about a former employee of Judge McCarty.”
Regarding lengthy dockets, “with more experience and improved procedures, the situation is much better now,” Westberry wrote. Gordon also denied that she “misrepresented material facts” during the JCC investigation.
Westberry wrote: “Judge Gordon is acutely aware of her duty to comport herself at all times in a way that will not undermine the public’s confidence in the judiciary and the rule of law ... Judge Gordon has used this investigation as as opportunity to scrutinize and reflect on how she can better uphold the dignity and impartiality of the judiciary, even in the midst of her adopted son’s transgressions.
“She never attempted to abuse her position, but is now more cognizant ... that she is never just a parent, or just a crime victim, but always a judge — on and off the bench.”
The JCC will next set a date to hear the allegations. Two JCC members from the Owensboro area, Court of Appeals Judge Jeff Taylor and attorney R. Michael Sullivan, have recused themselves from the proceedings.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @JamesMayse