Group seeking removal of Judge Lambert pickets in Stanford

July 30, 2004|EMILY BURTON

STANFORD - Pickets seeking the removal of Family Court Judge Debra Lambert, wife of Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, brought their case Thursday to Lincoln County. About 10 demonstrators supporting Concerned Citizens for a Better Family Court circled in a quiet march outside the Lincoln County Judicial Center during its morning session.

"We're enthused to come out to see something finally, finally done," said Dolores Mackey. "It's a volcano that has finally erupted."

The group alleges that Lambert has traumatized children through unfounded and unnecessary foster care placements, taken personal favorites in cases while ignoring the other side, and refused to recuse herself in cases involving conflicts of interest.

After formal complaints got nowhere, frustrated parents formed the group, said Concerned Citizens president Carrie Schultz.

"Our goal is to remove Judge Lambert from the office of family court judge, which covers Pulaski, Lincoln and Rockcastle counties," Schultz said.


Schultz, along with vice president Sandra Morrow, have each appeared before Lambert in family court and have seen their children placed in foster care or with relatives. But the picketing, meetings and countless phone calls are not about their individual cases, they say.

Claiming a membership of more than 100, Schultz said the group's work is about protecting other children from the judge's "very bizarre, inappropriate, incomprehensible " actions.

After their recent picket in Somerset, the group received about 50 calls from Lincoln parents with similar concerns, she said.

Many of the group's supporters said they had attended the protest out of a lack of other options.

"There's nothing you can do, this woman is married to the chief justice," said Mackey.

Members of the group say they are worried about possible retaliation. They claim to have been photographed and videotaped at their meetings and demonstrations by people other than the media.

"I'm not worried about it," said Kenny Hodge, a Lincoln County constable also dissatisfied with what he sees as Lambert's "one-sided, unfair" ruling in his case.

"I am. I got to face her on child support," said Sandra Meade, standing beside him.

Lambert denied any knowledge of photos being taken of the pickets. "I did not direct anybody to take pictures," she said.

The group's organizers allege that during their first meeting in Somerset, Lambert attended in the company of a state trooper. The group called that an interference and an infringement on their First Amendment rights to assemble.

Lambert stands by her decisions

Lambert says the nature of her caseload invites criticism, but she stands by her decisions.

"Any time a child is removed from the home, there are allegations of abuse," said Lambert Thursday afternoon regarding the accusations.

Immediately following Thursday's picketing, Lambert declined comment and referred The Advocate-Messenger to a statement she issued to the newspaper in June via e-mail. After conducting an interview with a television reporter in her chambers, she telephoned the newspaper and answered questions.

"Every time they speak, they make misrepresentations," said Lambert of her detractors.

In her June statement, Lambert wrote "I have followed the rule of law and treated every party with utmost dignity and respect. It is not my nature to be abusive or dismissive with anyone. The behaviors of these women are orchestrated to attempt to intimidate me and to prevent me from doing my job as a family court judge."

Supporters of Lambert also have become more vocal.

In her July 7 letter to the editor in The Advocate, Lori D. Bowles of Liberty wrote of Lambert's ruling regarding her domestic abuse case.

"She showed nothing but compassion and care in our case. I am so very grateful for what she did for me, for if it were not for her I would not be where I am today, and that is very safe and happy, living free with my 14-year-old son," wrote Bowles.

Once called a cluster of sour grapes, Concerned Citizens has grown in volume to attract the attention of Kentucky media. Morrow called the media Concerned Citizens' only protection against Lambert. "When she takes retaliatory actions against members, we will go to the media," Morrow said.

"This is the opportunity to tell people what happened, " said protester Sharon Mackey. "Or else nobody would know."

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