Group takes its effort to remove Judge Lambert to Frankfort

September 16, 2004|EMILY BURTON

FRANKFORT - Protesters marching to remove Family Court Judge Debra Lambert picketed for action from an unusual source Wednesday, that of Judge Lambert's husband, Kentucky Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert.

The morning's quiet picket by the Somerset-based group, Concerned Citizens for a Better Family Court, circled the capitol building steps with signs asking the chief justice to hold his wife accountable. Some had driven several hours to show their dismay and frustration with what the group claims is Lambert's unethical behavior on the bench, including presiding over cases despite conflicts of interest and not allowing some litigants to defend themselves.

Only recently has any legal professional voiced concern.

Legal Aid lawyer Robert H. Brown told the Courier-Journal that Judge Lambert's inconsistency when ruling has been devastating on his client's lives. She listened to both sides with care or cuts them off completely before an abrupt ruling, Brown said.

Her decisions "cause anguish and turmoil for the parties that appear before her as well as the children involved," said Brown. He said a costly drug test she often orders, with or without cause, has also hurt less fortunate clients. Several protesters supported his claim.


"Judge Lambert does not seem to have an understanding of what it means to be a poor person facing very expensive and costly litigation," Brown said.

Group president Carrie Schultz said the picket had to travel beyond Lambert's Lincoln, Pulaski and Rockcastle circuit because of the Judicial Conduct Commission's lack of action. After multiple complaints filed without results, Schultz questioned the chief justice's influence over his wife's career.

"Because of who he is in relation to her, I believe this is the reason she still has a job," Schultz said with quick steps. "I don't know if he realizes the horrible, life-altering decisions she's making," doesn't know, doesn't care or is defending his wife, said Schultz. Nothing has been rectified through the official channels, Schultz said.

Complaints are sealed to the public

Complaints about a judge filed with the conduct commission are sealed to the public unless charges result. According to the commission, no such official charges have been brought against Judge Lambert.

"They always say she acted in good faith," Schultz said of the commission's lettered responses.

Chief Justice Lambert had traveled with the court to Harlan County Wednesday and could not be reached immediately to refute claims against him, though his chief of staff and counsel remained in Frankfort to give "no comment."

James Deckard declined to comment on the record, but did question the newsworthiness of the protest, as Judge Lambert has done in the past. Deckard also explained that the chief justice has no jurisdiction or legal influence over the Judicial Conduct Commission, unless their decision is appealed.

According to Judicial Department law, the commission's actions "shall be subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court."

Stories emerge at each protest or group meeting, claiming Lambert lost her temper or acted rashly before hearing both arguments. Many haven't come from the picket lines, but from anonymous calls to the group, Schultz said.

Lambert says the protesters will not sway her bench, set until the 2008 re-election.

"Certainly I would say they are misguided if they believe I would ever resign," Lambert said. "The story here is the judge-bashing that's going on. I think they enjoy the attention the media seem to be giving them, for whatever reason."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

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