On Wednesday, March 1, 2023, the Judicial Conduct Commission of the Commonwealth of Kentucky publicly reprimanded John L. Atkins, Circuit Court Judge of Christian County, 3rd Judicial District, for judicial misconduct.

The judge was charged with violating Rules 1.2, 2.9(a), and 2.9 (c) of the Code of Judicial Conduct, which requires:

A judge to act at all times in a manner that promotes public confidence in the independence, integrity, and impartiality of the judiciary.

A judge not to initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications or consider other communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties or their lawyer, concerning a pending or impending matter.

A judge not to investigate facts in a matter independently, and shall consider only the evidence presented and any facts that may properly be judicially noticed.

According to the court filing, the Judicial Conduct Commission conducted two investigations in relation to complaints that Judge Atkins committed misconduct by engaging in an ex parte discussion with parties in two separate pending matters.

The filing states:

“During the sentencing hearing, Judge Atkins disclosed that he contacted the police officer and asked the officer about the facts supporting the assault charge. The police officer did not testify in court to these facts. Judge Atkins took the position, that as the ultimate fact finder, he had the prerogative to talk to or inquire of whomever he wanted and investigate matters independently as part of rendering a decision about disposition of the case.”

The filing continues:

“While the jury deliberated on the charges, Judge Atkins entered the gallery and spoke with the victim’s families and other members of the church. Specifically, Judge Atkins made comments to victims’ parents and members of the church, that security cameras should be required in daycare centers and that he should take it to the City Commission.”

In the second matter, two of the four defendants sought Judge Atkins’ recusal which was granted by Judge Atkins. However, Judge Atkins denied one of the defendant’s motions to recuse Atkins in her case.

The filing additionally notes:

“The Chief Justice reviewed the matter pursuant KRS 26A.020 and ordered Judge Atkins’ disqualification on the basis that his comments to the victim’s families and members of the charge provided a basis for a reasonable person to question his impartiality.”

Judge Atkins waived formal proceedings and agreed to the disposition of the matter.

Accordingly, the Court ruled for the imposition of public reprimand upon Judge Atkins for his violation of the above-cited rules of the Code of Judicial Conduct.

Judge Atkin’s courtroom is located at 100 Justice Way, Hopkinsville, Kentucky 42240, and can be reached at (270) 889-6537. He earned his law degree from the University of Louisville. His info can be found on the Kentucky Court of Justice’s website.

A copy of the original filing can be found here.