On Thursday, March 2, 2023, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary publicly censured the judge of the 41st Judicial Circuit of Blount County, Steven D. King. The case is entitled  “In the Matter of Judge Steven King,” with case number #63.

The charges cited violations of the Alabama Code of Judicial Ethics Canons 1.2, 2A, and 2B. 

On December 20, 2022, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission (JIC) filed a complaint against the respondent who allegedly sent an anonymous letter criticizing the language used by county commissioner dean Calvert in a hidden recording in 2020. The JIC further alleged that judge King requested Calvert’s resignation in writing to a probate judge. According to the complainant, these actions violated the Alabama Code of Judicial Ethics.

The filing states:

“Judge King’s actions in authoring the letter anonymously and having an attorney, who regularly appears before him in Blount County Circuit Court, mail the packages for him, rather than mailing them himself, demonstrate that Judge King knew that this conduct constituted impropriety, or created the appearance thereof, and was inappropriate for one who holds judicial office.

Judge King furthered this act of impropriety in the September 14, 2020, letter to Judge Green by creating the false impression that he was not involved in authoring or sending the packages to several media outlets and Blount County officials, including himself. This too demonstrates that Judge King knew that his conduct constituted impropriety, or created the appearance thereof, and was inappropriate for one who holds judicial office.”

On January 23, 2023, the respondent filed an answer to the complaint against him. In the said answer, the respondent admitted some parts of the allegations but with some clarificatory statements. One of the clarifications explained what really transpired in the alleged “sending of mail packages”.

The filing continues:

“Judge King and the attorney referred to in this paragraph, Brad Green, were not to ask Mr. Green to mail the packages. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss what Judge King and others considered to be the inadequate plans of the County Commission related to a possible new courthouse.”

Judge King stated that the complaint by the Judicial Inquiry Commission violates his rights under the first amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution of Alabama. However, on February 7, 2023, the commission and judge King submitted an “Agreement and Stipulation of the Parties”. In accordance with the said agreement, the parties stipulated that the commission proved the facts of the allegations with clear and convincing evidence.

The filing further states:

“The Commission makes clear that the letters Judge King, “wrote to the Blount County Commission as a private citizen and as a judge prior to authoring the anonymous letter” do not constitute a violation of the Canons. But the parties agree that Judge King’s actions concerning the anonymous letter constitute a violation of Cannons 1, 2, 2A, and 2B.”

With all the documentary evidence presented in the court and the agreement and stipulation made by the parties, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary decided to publicly censure the respondent.

The Disposition states:

“The Commission makes clear that the letters Judge King, “wrote to the Blount County Commission as a private citizen and as a judge prior to authoring the anonymous letter” do not constitute a violation of the Canons. But the parties agree that Judge King’s actions concerning the anonymous letter constitute a violation of Cannons 1, 2, 2A, and 2B. The parties also agree to the following resolution:

A. Judge King be adjudged guilty of violating Canons 1, 2, 2A, and 2B;
B. Judge King be publicly censured and, further, that public censure is issued in a newspaper of general circulation in Blount County; and
C. Judge King be taxed with the costs of this prosecution allowed to the Commission under Ala. R. Civ. P. 54, in the amount of $1,116.50, and taxed with the costs to the Court of the Judiciary for the court reporter’s transcription of the public proceeding in that Court and for the Court’s publication of a Public Censure, should it issue one.”

The Judge earned a law degree from Samford University in 1988.

The Judge is in courtroom 207, 220 Second Avenue East in Oneonta, and can be reached at (205) 625-4145. His info can be found on ballotpedia.org.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.