The Judicial Ethics Committee operates under
Supreme Court Rule 4.310 to respond to inquiries by judges and judicial candidates regarding the ethical implications of their own prospective or on-going conduct. The JEC does not respond to any judge or judicial candidate about the ethical behavior of anyone other than him/herself. Also, the JEC does not respond to inquiries from any person who is not a judge or judicial candidate.
Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct forms the basis of JEC opinions. The code is intended to provide guidance and assist judges in maintaining the highest standards of judicial and personal conduct, and to provide a basis for regulating their conduct through disciplinary agencies. The code provides rules that should assist judges and candidates for judicial positions to always maintain the dignity of judicial office and to avoid both impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in their professional and personal lives.
The JEC is comprised of one judge from the Court of Appeals, Circuit Court and District Court and two members of the Kentucky Bar Association. Each member serves a four-year term. The JEC elects a chair of the committee. Communications between the requestor and the JEC members are confidential.
The JEC will provide an informal opinion to the requestor if it considers the question to be of limited applicability. If the JEC considers the question to have sufficient general interest and importance, it will render a formal opinion that will be published without identifying the requestor. Both formal and informal opinions shall be advisory only. However, if the question is ever before the Supreme Court, the JEC and the Supreme Court shall take into consideration the judge or judicial candidate’s reliance upon the JEC opinion.
Judicial Ethics Opinions
The JEC has withdrawn some of its formal opinions due to changes in the rules, statutes and case law. For historical purposes, however, the opinions considered invalid and withdrawn are still contained on the website.
Some opinions that are still valid reference canon numbers from the old 1978 Code of Judicial Conduct and the new canons are noted. Other opinions that are currently valid should be followed with caution in light of recent federal court rulings that are on appeal. The list of opinions and the opinions themselves contain the pertinent information so that users can take notice of their status and proceed accordingly.
How to Request a JEC Opinion
A judge or judicial candidate can request a JEC opinion by contacting Executive Secretary Jean Collier, Esq., Judicial Ethics Committee, Robert F. Stephens District Courthouse, 150 N. Limestone, Suite 301, Lexington, KY 40507, 859-246-2296.
Judicial Ethics Committee Members
Donald H. Combs, Esq., Chair
Combs & Combs
203 Main St., P.O. Drawer 31
Pikeville, KY 41502-0031
Court of Appeals Judge Jacqueline Caldwell
Washington County Judicial Center
100 E. Main St, Suite 200
Springfield, KY 40069
Circuit Judge Patricia M. Summe
Kenton County Justice Center
230 Madison Ave., Suite 601
Covington, KY 41011
District Judge Earl Ray-Neal
Madison County Hall of Justice
351 W. Main St.
Richmond, KY 40475
J. Stephen Smith, Esq.
2400 Chamber Center Drive, Suite 300
Fort Mitchell, KY 41017