A judge in Louisville, KY who is up for reelection is under fire for her distasteful remarks directed at African American defendants. In one case, she said that an African American man was lucky to leave her courtroom alive because of his Barack Obama t-shirt.
“That t-shirt’s not helping,” McLaughlin said. Later, she remarked again that Broaddus’ shirt was not doing him any favors with her. “Did you see his t-shirt? Barack Obama, ‘Let’s Do It Again.’ That was a double whammy,” she said, in a courtroom recording. “He’s lucky to get out of here alive,”she added.
McLaughlin seems to be unpopular in the legal community. Early in June, the Louisville Bar Association released its 2014 judicial evaluations. McLaughlin was by far the lowest rated judge. The LBA’s survey of 120 attorneys found a dismal 26 percent satisfaction rate for McLaughlin. She’s so despised, in fact, that only one district court judge has been ranked lower than her since the Bar Association began evaluations in 1979. KYCIR detailed some aspects of the judge’s character that may be behind her low ratings, based on a review of more than a dozen cases.
For example, last October, McLaughlin accused defendant Wesley Taylor of being “up here selling dope to little children.” That assertion — made during Taylor’s arraignment on a drug possession charge — was false; he was not accused of selling drugs to anyone.
When burglary and drug defendant Ronnie Gravel appeared in court a week later, McLaughlin said sarcastically: “He still needs to burglarize so he can maintain his drug habit. So everyone feels good and safe with him out in the public.”
Not only had Gravel not been convicted of either charge, the case was later dismissed.
In at least four other cases, McLaughlin denied defendants the right to a public defender. Furthermore, a procedural mistake she made this summer caused a conviction to be set aside because she had violated the defendant’s due-process rights.
A number of McLaughlins’s decisions have been challenged or overturned, as well:
In one case, McLaughlin’s colleague, District Judge David Holton, reversed her decision to deny appointment of a public defender to a woman accused of misdemeanor shoplifting. The woman was living on disability benefits, according to court records.
“In my judgment, it doesn’t matter whether you’re charged with a felony or misdemeanor, those aren’t part of the criteria when you determine whether a public defender should be appointed,” Holton told KyCIR. “What matters to me is the ability of the defendant to hire counsel.”
In another instance, defendant Shawn Litteral appeared in front of McLaughlin without an attorney in May on a $7 shoplifting charge. McLaughlin was required by Kentucky law to ask Litteral specific questions to gauge his ability for self-representation. However, she asked none of those questions, proceeded with the trial, declared Litteral guilty and sentenced him to serve 30 days in jail.
Public defender Jon Scheib happened to be in the courtroom. He protested, alleging that Litteral had not had a fair trial because McLaughlin failed to inform him of his right to an attorney and to ensure his competency in court. The prosecution later agreed that the court should set Litteral’s conviction aside. McLaughlin consented.
McLaughlin dismisses the criticism. “I think I do a really good job,” she told the Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting. “I show up on time and I work hard.” “Everyone in my court is treated fairly and respectfully,” she said.
She says that she is being targeted because she is “one of the few judges that didn’t come from the defense bar.” She claimed that most members of the group were defense attorneys who don’t support her reelection campaign. “They just declared war on a tough judge.”
McLaughlin’s campaign pamphlet claims that she is “unanimously endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police.” However, her opponent Matthew Eckert received that endorsement, according to Mike Hettich of the Deputy Sheriff’s FOP Lodge 25.
McLaughlin has an answer for that, too: She claims that she printed the pamphlet expecting to be endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police. The judge told KyCIR that she took the flyers out of circulation when the FOP endorsed her opponent, but a KYCIR reporter discovered a stack of the misinformational literature at McLaughlin’s husband’s medical office.
Kentucky voters, it’s time that you rid your state of this person.